The Last Five Years

By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Jason Robert Brown, the writer and composer of “The Last Five Years,” is probably best known for his score for the “The Bridges of Madison County,” for which he received the Drama Desk Award. In this unusual, one-act work currently at Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) in Norwalk, we have what might be considered a contemporary opera because all the words are sung. At MTC, two Broadway performers who are accompanied by a four-piece band render at least fifteen songs via dramatic sequences.

The plot is essentially about growing in and out of love, and is told not only from the wife’s and husband’s perspective, but from opposite points of time. In other words, the wife, Cathy (Jennifer Malenke), starts from the couple’s final break-up in the mournful song, “Still Hurting,” and works backwards towards their initial meeting while husband, Jamie (Nicolas Dromard), begins at the pair’s first attraction in the light-hearted, “Shiksa Goddess,” and progresses forward. The disjointed time periods allow for contrasts of sad and happy moods. Along with these swings are depictions of culture clashes, compromises and careers which in turn lead to success, failure, jealousy, hurts, bitterness, regrets and a very poignant, final parting. This mish mash of emotions and circumstances is reflected in Brown’s mostly dissonant score, which is occasionally highlighted by some haunting melodies.

Malenke and Dromard are young, attractive, Broadway performers. Malenke was in “Into the Woods” and Dromard played Tommy DeVito in “Jersey Boys.” Both have wonderfully, expressive voices as well as acting abilities which were further enhanced by MTC’s director, Kevin Connors, We enjoyed “The Schmeul Song” in which Dromard not only sang, but danced -- described a colorful, Jewish folktale about a lovelorn tailor. In the “Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence, Malenke also displayed a full range of human emotions. The four-piece band under the direction of Jason Robert Brown is quite good, however, it sometimes overpowers the singing-actors’ words. If you appreciate shrill, cutting-edge, mostly dissonant music along with dramatic singing, you will like this show.

Plays thru April 24 Tickets: 203:454-3883

This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” April/2016

 

 

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