13 August 2010

The Last Five Years at BST


Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years is a two-person Sondheim-like operetta starring Lysa Fox and Kelly Martin, two of our best here in Billings. Two creative people try to make a marriage work: Jamie is the novelist in the early stages and Cathy is the aspiring actress who doesn't quite make the big time, a recipe for a difficult marriage. Music is a variety of styles often really good though not always successful in the recitative and amplified mode. I would have thought that amplification was not necessary for these two at the fairly intimate BST but perhaps it was thought to be too awkward if Lysa's voice over-powered Kelly's.

Brown borrows a little from Alan Ayckbourn in that he tells the story backwards for Cathy, starting with the seemingly inevitable breakup of the marriage, and forwards for Jamie, starting with their joyful first meeting, joining together only for the wedding scene, a nice duet. The playing with time theme is made a little too clear for the rest of us by Jamie's gift of a watch to Cathy at Christmas time but the song that goes with it, a Tailor by the name of Schmuel, a reminder of Fiddler on the Roof, was very good, especially the way Martin does it.

Lysa plays and sings well the usual story of the woman wronged. While I was watching these two excellent players and because of the fiddling with time which didn't work that well for me I couldn't help but think of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire and that famous quote: "Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards. . .and in high heels!"

Piano, cello, violin and guitar make a good combo for this music and especially for the space of the BST. Worth seeing and hearing.

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