Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years seems to be a bit show that people either really love or hate. Struggling actress Cathy Hiatt and writer Jamie Wellerstein’s relationship plays out for the audience, but in an unconventional way. Cathy’s story begins at the breakup, whereas Jamie’s plays out chronologically.
The show’s UK premier was at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2006, and has had several incarnations since. The Tobacco Factory’s Brewery Theatre is a choice venue for the intimate show; there’s a simple set of two identically arranged tables – Jamie’s to the left, and Cathy’s to the right. The simplicity works well, with a few props and some subtle lighting to aid the storytelling, but with the work falling on the actors.
Matthew Ronchetti as Jamie brought a great comic physicality to the character, nailing the punch lines with ease and singing beautifully throughout. At the start of the show, however, he risked being too over the top and gave an arrogance to Jamie that made him a little unlikeable. His version of ‘The Schmuel Song’ was excellently performed and skilfully directed. Catriona Mackenzie’s Cathy was outstanding. She never dropped a note, and easily matched Ronchetti’s comic ability, giving hints of Streisand during ‘A Summer in Ohio’.
The Last Five Years was the first musical to be performed at the Tobacco Factory’s Brewery Theatre, and was a wonderful first step. A no frills show with excellent direction from Martin Berry, beautiful singing from both and a perfect venue for the story. Here’s to many more. Needless to say it gets my ‘love it’ seal of approval, with particular mention going to Catriona Mackenzie who stole the show.
The Last Five Years is playing until Saturday 21 September. For more information and tickets visit the Tobacco Factory website.