Intimate space. Intimate atmosphere. Intimate musical. This two handed, non-lineal narrative musical is written beautifully by Jason Robert Brown. He writes witty, charming and heartbreaking lyrics that deserve a production to match. The Tabard Theatre’s attempt, unfortunately, does not deliver.
The story of Jamie (Christopher Pym) and Cathy’s (Lauren Samuels) relationship is revealed to us from either end, as we hear Jamie’s story from the beginning, and Cathy’s from the end of the five years. We watch their ups and downs, their disagreements and agreements, their flaws and their talents. Jamie, a hugely successful novelist, lives a separate life to that of his adoring wife, her love for him as strong as his love for himself. We see the relationship crumble before our eyes, his success leaving her with nothing.
An inspired design from Ben Rogers mirrors Director Drew Baker’s decision to isolate the two parts, only seeing them together when the two stories meet, on their wedding day. The separate beds placed on either side of the stage, keeps them divided throughout. However, this is a difficult direction to fulfill. Even when the pair are singing to each other, there is no one to develop the relationship with except the audience, often leaving it feeling repetitive and uninspired.
Samuels plays Cathy with an intelligence that perfectly captures her heartbreak, and keeps the audience’s attention with her contrasting cheeky side which shines through in songs such as ‘I can do better than that’, and ‘Summer in Ohio’. I can’t help thinking though, that Pym was miscast in his role as Jamie, unable to portray the character’s arrogance and never really relaxing into the role. He was undeniably overshadowed by Samuels throughout – the fact that there are two evenly-weighted parts and Pym disappoints in one of them, makes it difficult to ever really sympathise or to feel the intimacy that this musical requires.
The Last Five Years is playing at the Tabard Theatre until 5th March. Tickets and information on the website here.