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Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Limelight Theatre/1st Stage The Last Five Years

By • May 12th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown
Limelight Theatre & 1st Stage
1st Stage, McLean, VA
Through May 23
2:00, with one intermission
$30/$20 Students
Reviewed May 7, 2010

There are many reasons why Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years is one of the cult-hit favorites of musical theatre performers today. There are also many reasons why the show never became a mainstream favorite. Elements of both are evident in Limelight Theatre & 1st Stage Theatre’s co-produced venture.

The number one reason that the show has endured with performers is that each song is an amazing journey of both lyrics and music. Each song tells a story that can stand alone as well as be part of the musical; therefore, the songs are ideal for auditions and reviews to show off both acting and singing ability in one number. The absolute best thing about this production was the amazing orchestra that absolutely brought each and every number vividly to life even before the addition of Brown’s lyrics, which manage to be both poignant and humorous at the same time.

There is almost no dialogue in the piece, besides a few lines that introduce some of the songs, and it falls on the lap of the director to tell the story between the songs in his staging. Director Jay Brock does a solid job of finding engaging and interesting ways to let us know what is going on. The staging is simple but effective for the purpose. The only downfall is that he underutilizes an amazing set. It is a beautiful set that seamlessly transforms into a pier or a bedroom when the time calls, but, still, ninety percent of the show is performed in front of the set or on one bench.

The major hole in the show itself is the fact that it leaves too much of the story untold in its quest to be avant-garde in its style and story structure. One of the characters is moving backwards through this story of a failing marriage, while the other is moving forward. While the concept is interesting in and of itself, it does not seem to lend much to the development of these two main characters.

While this is a flaw of the book, or lack there of, and not of the production itself, Carolyn Meyers does little to help. Her interpretation of Cathy is superficial at best. At all times, it is clear that Meyers is “acting.” I never really believe her pain, her joy, or her struggles. The emotional journey of Cathy is lost, first through the loosely-constructed book and secondly through her uninspired performance.

The bright spot is that every number performed by Meyers is instantly followed by a performance from John Loughney. Not only is the character of Jamie better written (we really get to watch his descent in a more clearly linear manner), there is something about Loughney that just makes you want to watch him. Even as the character makes choices that most of us may not like or respect, Loughney makes you understand and want to keep listening to his side. In a small space, he immediately looks a little old for the role and even his performance is not flawless, but there is something about him that makes you feel like, for all the nit-picky flaws in this production, your money was certainly not wasted.

Overall, this was a decent production that hinted at ability for greatness, much like the script they were bringing to life. It is definitely worth seeing as a new experience, and it definitely leads me to believe that these are theater companies with great potential that are truly worth watching to see where they go next.

Photo Gallery

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Photos provided by 1st Stage.

Cast

  • Cathy Hiatt: Carolyn Myers
  • Jamie Wellerstein: John Loughney
  • Understudies: Natalie Pyle, Jeremy King

Instrumentalists

  • Violin: Jeffry Newberger
  • Cello I: Devree Lewis
  • Cello II: Amy Huzjak
  • Bass: Mike Scoglio
  • Guitar: Jaime Ibacache
  • Piano: Jason Solounias

Crew

  • Director: Jay D. Brock
  • Musical Director: Jeffry Newberger
  • Assistant Director: Walter Ware
  • Costumes: Cheryl Patton Wu
  • Stage Manager: Ellyce Morgan
  • Carpenters: Lucas Beck, Tom Herold, Mark Krikstan
  • Scenic Painter: Ellyce Morgan, Leigh Taylor Patton
  • Stitchers: Brigitte Wazana, Cheryl Patton Wu
  • Playbill: Marty McGrane, Lynne Silverstein
  • Postcard Design: Robin Harris

Disclaimer: The ShowBizRadio reviewer purchased a ticket for this production.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musical for use in church.

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