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First look at ‘The Last Five Years’

On Sept. 7, Thingamajig Theatre Company concludes their 2012 Summer Season with the reflective musical “The Last Five Years,” by Jason Robert Brown.

Jason Robert Brown’s presumably autobiographical tale of a writer hitting the big time as his marriage disintegrates has much in common with both Jonathan Larson’s “tick tick ... BOOM” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George.”

This is a chamber musical featuring only two performers, who between them get through a tremendous amount of work during the ninety minutes of the play. Tim Moore (Jamie) and Rachel Saul Pollack (Cathy) sing their hearts through a fast-paced, uniquely devised contemporary musical.

The storyline is simple, but the storytelling can be described as original. Jamie tells the story from the beginning of their relationship, while Cathy is recalling it from its conclusion. Jamie is a Jewish novelist on the way up, first seen at 23 with the world fast becoming his oyster as an agent signs him up and sells his book, much to the admiration of Cathy.

She is a wannabe musical actress whose career has not got beyond the disastrous auditions and waiting table stage. Initially, their love is touching, culminating in a scene in which his marriage proposal in Central Park suddenly transforms into their wedding.

Over five years of marriage, career-wise their lives follow the paths that have already been set, his going from strength to strength and hers barely taking off. The strain that this puts on their relationship leads to heart ache on both sides and in the end to a separation that is likely to become permanent.

The evening peaks early as Pollack shows off a richly melodious and powerful voice while lamenting the end of what had seemed the perfect match, and Jamie’s first song Shiksa Goddess is a gem. It has pace, tremendous humor with every line funny, and pathos, as this Jewish boy yearns for a wife who will not be like all the Jewish girls that he has dated and been bored by.

Throughout, Cathy gets the downbeat reflective songs with bits of comedy coming in a witty auditions skit and reflections about Jamie during a book signing event, while Jamie gets the upbeat, rocky ballads and most of the best lines.

The music has been compared to Sondheim with good reason. Brown particularly concentrates on the piano, played by a live ensemble — a mix of local and regional musicians. This works well and complements the attractive voices of both performers.

“The Last Five Years” is very impressive and innovative in its method of tale. Even if  it tells a story that has been heard on many previous occasions, it should draw audiences on the back of the theatre’s reputation, the talents of the leading pair and a sense of identification that many will feel with its sentiments.

Thingamajig Theatre Company presents, “The Last Five Years,” directed by Laura Moore, vocal direction by Sally Neel, starring Tim Moore and Rachel Saul Pollack, opening Sept. 7 and running through Sept. 30. Running time — 90 minutes. The show is appropriate for audiences 13 and up. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door and can be secured by visiting www.pagosacenter.org or calling 731-SHOW.

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