Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Beauty That Is "The Last 5 Years"

Stephen Sondheim knew how to write innovative musicals. Meat pies, whistling towns, Bobby, and Maria and Tony. What is stifling new works in today's musical theatre industry? Why does writing "Generic Musical Title: A New Musical" appear to be the kiss of death on Broadway? What is it that makes theatre goers, mostly casual, not want to try out new theatre? Perhaps it's because they paid top dollar to see a beloved revival of West Side Story and they know the story already, so they figured they'd have a better time? Do audiences not want to watch challenging and compelling new works?

I guess that is why Off-Broadway is so vital to this industry. It does give opportunities for new plays and musicals to be grown both on stage and with its audiences. That leads me to the masterpiece, yes masterpiece, that is "The Last 5 Years", lyrics and music by Jason Robert Brown.

This is a show that I bought online back in the early 2000s and did not know a whole lot about it. But I guess that means I'm the type of person who loves to explore new music. When I went to Scottsdale Community College, I presented a project on Stephen Sondheim and his Broadway legacy and I touched based on how without him, works like The Last 5 Years, would probably not be possible. I believe that JRB has such a prolific voice in this industry and his ability to tell a story through his lyrics is only comparable to that of Sondheim.

So, the story of L5Y is of Cathy and Jamie, a young couple, she an actress from a small town who moves to NYC and he, a writer who makes the big time.

Simple story right?

What makes it so damn compelling is that it's told from both their perspectives, without ever communicating with eachother (except once). Also, Cathy starts her story at the end of the relationship and Jamie starts with the beginning, when he meets Cathy. Each characters take their turn telling their stories through songs, as each story progresses (degresses in Cathy's instance), we learn how the story unravels and how these two fell in and out of love. The only scene where they actually are in the same "moment" is during their wedding; the incredible song "The Next Ten Minutes."

No, that one's Jerry Seinfeld
That one's John Lennon there
No, the Dakota
The San Remo is up a few blocks
Have you been inside the Museum?
We should go
Meet the dinosaurs


Will you share your life with me
For the next ten minutes?
For the next ten minutes
We can handle that
We could watch the waves
We could watch the sky
Or just sit and wait
As the time ticks by
And if we make it till then
Can I ask you again
For another ten?

And if you in turn agree
To the next ten minutes
And the next ten minutes
Till the morning comes
Then just holding you
Might compel me to
Ask you for more
There are so many lives I want to share with you
I will never be complete until I do

I'm not always on time
Please don't expect that from me
I will be late
But if you can just wait
I will make it eventually

Not like it's in my control
Not like I'm proud of the fact
But anything other than being exactly on time
I can do

I don't know why people run
I don't know why things fall through
I don't know how anybody survives in this life
Without someone like you
I could protect and preserve
I could say no and goodbye
But why, Jamie, why?

I want to be your wife
I want to bear your child
I want to die
Knowing I
Had a long, full life in your arms
That I can do
Forever, with you

Will you share your life with me


For the next ten lifetimes?

Forever, Jamie

For a million summers

Till the world explodes
Till there's no one left
Who has ever known us apart

There are so many dreams
I need to see with you...

There are so many years
I need to be with you...

I will never be complete

I will never be alive

I will never change the world
Until I do

I do

I do

I do

I do...

Is that one John Lennon?
That's the San Remo
Isn't that the Museum?
Can we go see the dinosaurs?

The amazing Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott

While I've never seen a full production of this show, I know that this is one that is making the regional rounds, so, if you hear of a production in your area: go, go, go! It's art that makes you think, challenge your belief in marriage and relationships and experience life.


»-(Amanda)-»» said...

Hey ONTD-er :)

I can't wait to see this. My local theatre (where I interned and now volunteer) has it in their season next year :)

Natalie said...

Hey Amanda,
That's great, you'll have a good time, the music is so fantastic! and yay ONTD!