The saying, “There are two sides to every story” takes its truest form in the musical, The Last Five Years. Two lovers narrate their romance, with one character, Jamie, singing about their relationship in chronological order, and the other, Cathy, in reverse chronological order. We hear stories from different points of their relationship from each character, and harmony can only be felt for a brief moment when their stories intersect as they remember their wedding.
The Legacy Theatre prepared The Last Five Years in a mere few weeks, and the actors should be applauded for the hard work they clearly put into their performances. Emmett Cassidy plays the goofy, independent artist Jamie Burnett who meets Cathy as he’s becoming a blossoming author. Cassidy’s voice matches the personality of Jamie. He’s likable, a little silly, but still rough around the edges and learning how to navigate life. Then, there’s Cathy, who is played by Tess Adams. She’s an artist like her husband, but struggling to reach any success as an actress. Her voice is the opposite of Cassidy’s. Once a child actor on Broadway, Adams’ voice is clearly classically trained. Because much of the show features them singing solos, their different tones are appreciated in their respective scenes.
However, this is a love story. While the characters are divided for most of the show, there is a brief moment where they meet and sing together. This wedding scene shows that, at a point, they were fully in love with one another. But due to their difference in tone, the duet clashes. While this could be considered appropriate for their rough relationship, this scene is meant to illustrate a time when they were both in sync, and it’s hard to believe it when the harmonies sound at odds.
The set is designed to show their shared life despite the characters not coming in contact for most of the performance. The audience gets little glimpses into their space, like a Hannukah-themed Christmas tree, celebrating the couples’ holiday together, and a boat floating on the water where Jamie proposes to Cathy. There are also moments where Jamie and Cathy have a designated set on stage establishing an important, personal moment for them. Jamie can be seen hovering over a mattress, having just cheated on Cathy, while Cathy is off auditioning for various roles on a stage and finding difficulty booking a job.
After watching Legacy Theatre’s incredibly well-done Oedipus Rex this August, it’s hard to believe that this show was made by the same team. It’s difficult to appreciate the set design due to poor lighting. For a love story (or rather, a falling out of love story), there are not many factors to add to the emotion of Cathy and Jamie’s relationship. Colored lighting is rarely used, making the set feel empty and without life. The accompaniment feels the same, though it’s unsure if the theatre had a choice of incorporating more instruments. Adams and Cassidy are supported by a single piano for the entirety of the musical, and for such a devastating story of watching a couple fall in and out of love, there are no strings to lament their dying romance or brass to accentuate the comedic moments the two have. Just small tweaks to the set and accompaniment could have made the audience more emotionally drawn to the story of Jamie and Cathy.
The Last Five Years will play at Legacy Theatre until Sept. 26.