Preview: The Last Five Years
This moving show highlights the role of time, loss and change in romantic relationships
In the intimate setting of the Corpus Playroom, audiences next week will have the opportunity to watch a five-year relationship blossom and wither all within the space of an hour and a half, and all conveyed through song! We caught up with The Last Five Years’ cast and crew amidst tireless rehearsals to hear how they’ll bring their vision to life.
How would you summarise the plot?
Ben Mulley (Jamie): It’s a musical about the relationship shared by two people, Jamie and Cathy, over a five-year period. The highs and lows of their bond are shown from their perspectives, resulting in two subjective stories about the same partnership. This is brought out even more because they operate on different timelines, with Cathy going from the end of their relationship to the start, and Jamie going front the start to the end, meeting only once: in the middle.
Beck Walker (Director): It’s about a relationship in its simplest essence – they get together, have a five-year relationship and break up. That’s not much of a spoiler since you can get all that from the title and the first song. So I guess what the rest of the musical does is explain that relationship – how it comes together and how it falls apart.
What inspired you to put on The Last Five Years?
Beck: It’s my favourite musical, I’ve always known I’d love to stage it, and this seemed like a great opportunity to do it! I absolutely adore the score, the emotional range, everything about it.
Ben: I adore this musical. Jason Robert Brown has a way of writing musicals that very few can claim to equal. The way that he marries music and words is sublime. It’s a pleasure to be able to put on his work.
What’s your favourite line/moment from the show?
Juliette Ball (Cathy): Any line where Cathy actually stands up for herself – there aren’t very many.
Beck: I love Cathy’s last verse of ‘I Can Do Better Than That’ – it’s a very optimistic song that comes right towards the end of the show. It creates this really beautiful irony when she sings, “think about what could be” – we in the audience don’t have to, we’ve already seen it happen.
Amy Oh (Musical Director): Towards the end of the show, when they sing the same word ‘Goodbye’ but in separate timeframes – it’s rare that these two are ever on stage together, which makes this moment even more bittersweet.
George Jackson (Assistant Musical Director): My favourite moment in the show comes in the middle when we see Jamie and Cathy singing together just before their marriage, during this brief interlude of undisputed happiness as their timelines finally cross.
How is The Last Five Years relevant to audiences today?
Kate Caspari (Assistant Director): We’ve found different moments in the show resonate more and less with different people – my favourite song in the show totally changes depending on my mood, and what else I’ve got going on in my life that day. Jamie and Cathy are navigating many common issues in relationships and friendships people have in their early 20s, and it’s been really interesting to talk about who these characters were before this relationship and who they are outside of it in order to understand how they act within it.
What’s it been like bringing this show to life at the Corpus Playroom?
Beck: Really exciting! Our cast is amazing, the technical aspects of the production look fantastic, and I’m really excited about seeing the orchestra in quite a small space and the actors interacting around them. Working in Corpus is ideal for a show like this because the space provides that extra layer of intimacy, which really helps bring the couple together and emphasise how far apart they are when they’re so close to the audience, but not each other. I think the show becomes particularly immersive in a space like that – the actors don’t have a lot of space on stage to play, so they end up using the audience as their confidants.
Amy: Corpus is an interesting (by interesting I mean challenging) space for this musical because it’s really difficult to get the sound balance right with the L-shaped audience, a 5-piece band and a small space. That’s why I decided to have the sitzprobe in Corpus, even though this meant we had to carry George’s keyboard across town since we didn’t have a stage piano yet!
How have music rehearsals been going?
Amy: I’m so grateful to be working with such an incredible team of musicians and cast! JRB draws on so many different musical genres, from the Baroque-inspired accompaniment in ‘Still Hurting’ to the Irish jig in ‘Climbing Uphill’ and everything in between, so it’s really fun switching between these musical styles. This is a unique musical in that there aren’t many complex harmonies, so I could focus more on how to bring out the characters’ emotions and personalities, as well as the storytelling aspects through the music instead of just teaching the notes.
George: It has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside such talented musicians to bring this complicated score to life. It is certainly a challenge to conquer a Jason Robert Brown musical. However, I must say that this piano part has appeared in multiple nightmares over the past month, and will continue to do so for decades to come.
Why should people come to see the show?
Beck: I’m biased, but I just think it’s the kind of thing that can change your perspective on a lot of things. It’s a beautiful story, at once tragic and optimistic through Jamie and Cathy’s intertwining narratives, and there’s something really magical that Jason Robert Brown captures that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It’s a good show I guess.
Amy: To see Ben play a clock. No, but seriously, I think you’ll be moved by the music and how Ben and Juliette tell this story.
Any The Last Five Years-inspired final words of wisdom?
Beck: Hmmm, that’s a tricky one. How do you compare “Maybe it’s just that you’re afraid to go out on to a limb-ovich” with the wisdom of “look at me – no – not at my shoes – don’t look at my shoes – I hate these f****** shoes – why did I pick these shoes?”.
Amy: “It’s not a problem it’s just a challenge” is what I had in my mind whenever people told me it was a bad idea to have a 5-piece band on the Corpus stage.
Clearly, everyone involved in The Last Five Years is incredibly dedicated on a personal level, and all that’s missing now is a big audience for the characters to project their feelings at – I’m going to go out on a limb-ovich and say this isn’t a show to be missed!
The Last Five Years is showing on the 24th – 28th of January at 7:00 pm in the Corpus Playroom. Book your tickets here.
Feature image credit: Sarah Anderson