The Last Five Years, the upcoming musical at the Gem Theater of the Sabes JCC, is not your typical love story. Nor is it your typical musical. For starters, there’s no happy ending here, at least not in the conventional sense. Don’t worry, that wasn’t a spoiler. We learn in the opening scene, in fact in the heartbreaking opening line, that the marriage of Cathy and Jamie, the play’s two central characters, will fail. The story is unconventionally told, with Cathy relating her version of events backwards in time from the end of the relationship to the beginning, while Jamie’s narrative advances chronologically from the beginning of the relationship to the end. Poignantly, their narratives and characters unite only once in the play: at their wedding.
As far as musicals go, The Last Five Years is uniquely intimate. Featuring only two characters, and focusing exclusively on their relationship, playwright Jason Robert Brown’s modern lyrics dig deep into the nuances, joys, and challenges of a young marriage. Casting is crucial in a two-person show, and director Todd Bruse has tapped two accomplished Twin Cities actors known for their musical chops: Daniel Vinitsky as Jewish New Yorker, Jamie, and Anne Brown as his “shiksa goddess,” Cathy. The play also features a live five-person orchestra, showing off the theater’s ability to mix multiple live instruments with its newly installed digital equipment. In other words, this show should sound pretty great.
Bruse believes the play will resonate with audiences because it is such an emotionally-charged, honest, and relatable story. Who hasn’t experienced the exuberance that comes with a new relationship or the crushing sadness that accompanies a painful break-up? Who hasn’t struggled to balance the demands of love, work, family, and finances? This identifiable journey of love found and lost may explain the wide appeal of the show, which has been translated into multiple languages, won a Drama Desk award, and was named one of Time’s best shows of 2001. It was also adapted into a popular 2014 film of the same name starring Hollywood charmers Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.
This show marks the launch of Sabes JCC’s new loop broadcasting system for hearing-assisted patrons. The system, obtained from a recent grant through Chears Audiology, broadcasts the show directly into the t-coil of most hearing aids. This provides a direct connection between the hearing aid and the sound source, eliminating background noise. The Last Five Years team is excited about this new offering and its ability to make the theater more accessible to a wider range of patrons.
If you see this show, and we hope you do, let us know what you think. The Jewish subtext of the show, including Jamie’s rejection of a litany of Jewish girls in favor of Cathy, could spark some interesting discussions.
The Last Five Years plays at the Gem Theater of the Sabes JCC on December 11, 12, and 13 at 7 pm. For tickets and information, visit sabesjcc.org. For details on the loop broadcasting system visit chearsaudiology.com.