The Last Five Years ★★★★★ Garrick Theatre | Sep 17 - Oct 17, 2021

The Last Five Years is Jason Robert Brown's provocative, quasi-autobiographical song cycle about marriage and divorce. The most unusual thing here is that for one character (Jamie) the narrative works forwards from the couple's first meeting, while for the other (Cathy) it works backwards from their divorce. The actual exposition of this concept could be clearer, but once we got it the show really shines. The instantly appealing score is more than just smart and sassy, ranging in style from tender ballads to jazz to Klezmer. We particularly liked Jamie's "The Schmuel Song" and Cathy's "Still Hurting". The couple's paths only cross once – at their wedding – where they sing the haunting duet "The Next Ten Minutes". Jonathan O'Boyle's ingenious direction, coupled with Jamie Platt's excellent lighting, sets everything on and around a grand piano inexorably revolving as the clock ticks on the relationship. In the shadows, Leo Munby's band provides subtle accompaniment. Oli Higginson and Molly Lynch, as Jamie and Cathy, give absolute star-quality performances as their voices soar in these gorgeous songs. Not only is their singing and acting exceptional, but they also accompany each other's numbers on the piano. There might be parallels with some of Stephen Sondheim's work or Marvin Hamlisch's "They're Playing Our Song", but it is so refreshing to see an original musical which is not based on a film or a back catalogue. This clever show thoroughly deserves a triumphant West End run. Maybe it won't last five years, but it certainly should!

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Helen Maybanks.

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