Relationships prove to be diverse entities when presented on the main stage of a theater production. They take many shapes: challenging, comfortable, short flings or long-fought battles, depending on the story one tells. It’s rare to see a production take a musical’s foundation of a relationship-driven story and make it feel authentic, but the strength of the two leading (and only) roles in this production of The Last Five Years carries audiences through what feels like a lifetime of love in ninety minutes.
From the combined efforts of TheatreLab and Yes, And! Productions, Jason Robert Brown’s musical is stripped bare of any of the Broadway sheen it took on during it’s run in NYC, making it a music-and-emotions-first show that explodes with power. The story of Jamie (played by Alexander Sapp) and Cathy (played by Christie Jackson) is told without dialogue between the two characters, giving the show a structure of musical vignettes that allows an audience to piece together the stages of love and heartbreak that encapsulate their relationship. The dynamic pairing of these actors’ voices breathes realism into their emotions, delivering odes like “Shiksa Goddess” and narrative diatribes like “Climbing Uphill” to a roller-coaster of a plot.
The Basement, the space holding this production, adds another element to the performance’s raw power. The set and lighting design, by Matt Shofner and Michael Jarett, respectively, give an ethereal feel to the show, allowing for each vignette to take place out of time and enhancing the intended structure delivered throughout.
Couples and singles alike will find the harsh realities of this musical to be nothing, if not accurate. It might be that a viewer would come to find different poignant messages after some time removed, bearing similarities to the end of an actual relationship.
The Last Five Years is a powerful and entertaining production marked by its gripping and beautiful musical performances. Running through October 28 at The Basement, 300 W. Broad Street in Richmond, click here for showtimes and tickets.