‘The Last Five Years’ was intense.
La Boite Theatre’s latest production, ‘The Last Five Years’, brought to life the tumultuous love story of Jamie and Cathy in the beautiful Roundhouse Theatre. Challenging stereotypes, encouraging creativity and embracing musical expression, director Darren Yap brought the heartfelt story to life with startling clarity.
‘The Last Five Years’ is a Broadway musical by Jason Robert Brown. It explores the relationship of Jamie and Cathy and follows their first five years of marriage together, in a non-linear format. Cathy starts her story at the end of their relationship, while for Jamie, it is the first day they met. The show is fully sung and has some famous and powerful numbers.
Lighting design by Ben Hughes was complex. With such a confusing storyline to follow, the use of lighting to highlight parts of the stage and transitions from past to present day was integral to convey the plot. The use of spotlights to follow the actors from the stage and into the audience was effective and the variety of colours employed to highlight the mood of each moment was meaningful.
Sound design by Brady Watkins was captivating. The low rumbling of a train was ever more omnipresent as audiences took their seats before the show. The rumbling was used as a motif throughout the show, the vibration of bass unsettling and tumultuous. The use of reverb and echo on the microphones to illustrate the passage of time was particularly impactful.
Set and costume design by Chloe Greaves was understated. The set is not the hero of the show and the use of a bed on wheels which was moved around the stage and different levels simply conveyed the New York apartment setting of the show. The subway manholes were a nice New York touch and particularly effective at conveying the streets when smoke rose from them. Costumes were modern and fresh, in keeping with the time period of the piece. Cathy’s wedding dress transformation at the top of the show was impactful and performed effortlessly.
Yap wanted the takeaway from the show to be that “you can be with someone in absolute intimacy but feel like they are a complete stranger at the same time.” The blocking choices to rarely have Cathy and Jamie touch illustrated this. Scenes where both Cathy and Jamie were onstage were carefully crafted so that interactions between the pair were hollow, almost like a memory. The haunting relationship and passage of time was brought full circle when Jamie replaces a toy dinosaur on the bed, so the scene is left identical to the beginning of the show, which is in fact the end of their love story. Poignant blocking choices such as these heightened the emotion and circular nature of the show.
Musical Director James Dobinson, who also doubled as pianist for the show, crafted a well-sung show. Ninety minutes of solid singing is a mission and Dobinson supported the talented singers on stage while leading a skilled band who underscored the show with feeling and purpose. Having only two actors in this musical meant most songs were solos, however,when the pair sang together, their voices were well-blended.
Danielle Remulta’s portrayal of Cathy was feisty and strong. Her feelings for Jamie were evident, but the need to do what is best for her shone through. She handled the powerful songs with ease. Remulta brought Asian representation to the role of Cathy and has no doubt opened doors for many BIPOC performers to come.
Robert Tripolino’s portrayal of Jamie was endearing. Though he does not treat Cathy as well as she deserves, Tripolino managed to humanise the role and allow audiences to empathise with his journey as much as Cathy’s. His physicality and dynamic vocals combined in a performance that was captivating to watch.
Overall, the show was a powerful portrayal of a modern-day relationship. ‘The Last Five Years’ may be a story of love gone wrong, but La Boite certainly got it right.
‘The Last Five Years’ performs until Saturday, 18 June 2022 at La Boite Theatre. For more information visit the La Boite Theatre website.