The Last 5 Years; Love Half Discovered

People fall in love. People fall out of love. Thats the story being told in The Last 5 Years, which opened last night at the Performance Center in Campus Hall at Wagner College, being produced by Billy Aberle and Student Run Musical Theatre. The show, which consists mostly of songs, is a much older show requiring maturity and emotion all over in a deep connection to the greater meaning of love. However, I must say I left this student production of such a heavy piece thoroughly impressed.

The Last 5 Years is a musical that features Book, Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. The musical follow the story of Jamie and Cathy and their relationship over the last 5 years as they have fallen in and out of love. The musical is emotional gripping and very intense. I have to say I love the way this show is structured which should be major credit given to Jason Robert Brown. With Cathy beginning at the end of their relationship and working back while Jamie begins at the start and moves forward, its hard to watch them fall in and out of love and watch a relationship fall apart before your eyes which you cant stop.

The production itself was a very interesting and unique piece of theatre. It was a totally new way of doing The Last 5 Years. The production almost seemed like half concert/half theatre event. And thats not an insult! The stage which featured a pit in the back, 2 microphones and 2 acting blocks was a unique set up and was visually interesting to watch both stories. Cathy begins stage left and works right while Jamie begins stage right and works left. Their direction on stage works in the direction their stories are told. I do have to say though when they met up in the middle finally for “The Next 10 Minutes”, I wasn’t a fan of how the sequence worked.

Timothy McMillan, who plays Jamie in the production, captures you at moment A and takes you for a journey. His stage presence is impressive even from his first moment on stage. His pure voice is almost angelic at times with the notes he hits clearly with ease. I wouldn’t actually be able to tell you which song of his was my favorite because they all were. His voice is definitely something to be reckoned with. He plays opposite Marielle Greguski, who plays Cathy in this production. Upon Greguski’s entrance and first notes, your mouth drops. Wow is what consistently came to mind as she sang her way through the emotional journey. Something I liked about both performers is they seemed very natural on stage. Clearly both being experience, they don’t seem awkward as they make their way through out this production changing songs and emotions as it progresses.

However, while the production scores in all aspects vocally, I wouldn’t go as far to say that when it comes to the other work. As the show progressed, you were able to see McMillan change over time literally on stage. He changed his clothes from a vest to a jacket to a regular shirt which I thought was very appropriate for the story. Greguski’s changes all took place off stage which I didn’t like. There was definitely a way to do that on stage which wouldn have been less if a distraction as it turned out to be and would have connected the story more. Also, I would say the emotional connection for this story was about 75%. However, the fault of that can’t be blamed on any cast or creative team. I felt as though while McMillan and Greguski didn’t capture the entire emotional and acting portion of this piece, it lies in their age. The emotional depth and experience that needs to come with this show is something that is easier done with those that are older. One thing I very much enjoyed was that they didn’t fall into “silly acting” with the whole love story for their age. They definitely knew what this production needed to tell the story and did what they could.

I think a congratulations is definitely deserved to everyone involved and Student Run Musical Theatre for taking on such a production. This show may not have 40 people, tons of costume changes and technical stuff everywhere but it does have something much stronger then other shows require. Allison Smeck, who directed the production, definitely did a good job on working with performers at a younger age to get them to understand the importance of aspects of this story. Chris Sabol, who musically directed the piece, should be applauded for outstanding vocals and music all around. From the performers to the outstanding pit, the music of this show is absolutely its greatest asset.  The true story is told in words which can’t be spoken but only sung. And I think Sabol has had a great part in helping this aspect of the show succeed.

Overall, a well done to all involved with Student Run Musical Theatre’s production of The Last 5 Years. This piece, which is hard for even professionals to work on, is a definite pillar of dedication in this groups blooming theatrical history. I hope everyone gets a chance to check out this production. The final performance of The Last 5 Years it Tonight at 8:00 PM in the Performance Center in Campus Hall at Wagner College. To check out our previous article, check out The Last 5 Years Preview here on Luner on Theatre. And stay tuned to Luner on Theatre for all your news as we continue to cover everything Student Run Musical Theatre related as their season continues all year long.

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