A unique two-person musical “The Last 5 Years”

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St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre and The Fountain of Youth Spa and Laser Center present composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown’s unique two-person musical “The Last 5 Years,” which opened July 29th, 2016. The production will be on stage at 11 Old Mission Avenue in downtown St. Augustine, Florida through August 21st. Call 904-825-1164 or visit limelight-theatre.org for additional information and reservations.

The play, which opened fourteen years ago in Chicago, has gained renewed life in recent years, with the production of a film in 2014 and additional stage productions throughout the world.

13735555_10154832042710663_609491856539611256_o“The Last 5 Years “is a challenging (and rewarding) musical for all concerned: from the director, to the performers and the members of the audience. The story is a love story, a recapping of the five-year courtship, marriage, and separation of two New York residents in their twenties. Cathy is a struggling actress, while Jamie is a successful novelist. There is no dialogue; the story is told through songs, fourteen of them, all requiring accomplished acting and singing skills.

The challenge to the audience is the structure of the show. The two characters move in opposite directions through the timeline of their romance. Cathy’s story, which moves back in time, begins at the end of their marriage, which she is hoping to save. Jamie’s begins shortly after an early date, when he is clearly madly in love, and continues forward. The two alternate songs and meet in the middle during their wedding to sing a duet.

13603524_10154825654075663_6967944566729728239_oThe production is in the Koger-Camache Studio Theatre, an intimate black box space skillfully used by Director Bradley Akers and Assistant Director Sadie La Manna. The closeness between the actors and the audience allows us to participate in the joy and dismay of the two characters as their relationship unfolds.

13690957_10154817658195663_4548868507336307444_oMegan Morton is the vivacious Cathy, in a performance that is passionate, tender, and heartbreaking. She is no stranger to Limelight audiences, as she appeared as the lovely Irene Malloy in “Hello Dolly,” and as the mother Grace in Limelight’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Megan has also appeared in Jacksonville at the Alhambra Theatre & Dining.

13719673_10154817658975663_9040634150180306067_oMicah Laird as Jamie displays his fine comic talents along with a marvelous singing voice. He made his Limelight debut as Brian in the comedy.”No Sex Please, We’re British.” He is a graduate of Flagler College, with a B.A in Theatre Arts, and currently teaches drama at Matanzas High School.

One of the benefits of the black box is having the musicians in full view of the audience. Musical Director Shelli Long is on the piano; along with Damon Martin (Bass), Brooks Clarke (Guitar), Joseph Henderson (Violin), and Marcy Jean Brenner (Cello). Their performance was for the most part excellent although at times they tended to overpower the singers.

The Light Design by Miles Mosher effectively captured the many moods of the actors and we especially liked the blend of red lights to denote moments of anger. Stage Manager Amanda Arany brought various set pieces swiftly on and off the stage. The Set Design by Domenic Grasso has the walls decorated with pages from a book and a number of clocks also adorned the walls, a reference to both Jamie’s career and the passing of time. We found Cathy’s rendition of “Climbing Uphill” especially interesting as a close-up of an aspiring actress faced with a cattle call.

Of note: If you miss the current production, Limelight’s next production is “Oklahoma,” which opens September 23rd, 2016.

We can highly recommend “The Last 5 Years,” an unusual love story which is insightfully directed, with an intriguing score and strong performances.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.