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A CurtainUp Streaming Feature
The Last Five Years— Jason Robert Brown's sung through 2-hander until March 28th only. . .
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With more and more of us are getting vaccinated, theater buffs have actually been offered a chance to experience a show in a theater rather than in front of a screen in their kitchen or living room. For critics like me there's a certain excitement that comes with again receiving a press invitation with details and dates and times to come. It evokes memories of the old normal. But, given the still necessary guidelines, te audio recorded Donmar production of Blindness without a live actor on stage is hardly the sort of living, breathing work to fit that old normal experience. (See the final paragraph in my March 12th blog update where I first included details).

For me, the most interesting approaches to making pandemic-style theatergoing a satisfying experiences during this long, lonely year have come from small companies. The latest is a new perfect-for-streaming production of Robert Jason Brown's 2-character musical The Last Five Years by Out of the Box Theatrics.

The economic benefits of mini-cast productions for theater managers and the chance to shine on stage for actors have been with us for years, though mostly as non-musicals. But being this genre's outlier hasn't kept Robert Jason Brown's two-hander from turning up on many stages since I first reviewed it in 2002. To read my review go here

The story of two twenty-something New Yorkers who fall in love, marry but don't live happily echoed Brown's own marriage. What happened over the course of the relationship's five years is told, or rather sung — backwards by her and chronologically by him.

Ar first, I found this structure a bit pretentious, but thanks to Brown's sophisticated songs, his innovative book worked. And it works even better now that director Jason Michael Webb has brought it into the present with an excellent, non-traditionally cast Cathy and Jamie (Nasia Thomas and Nicholas Edwards).

The production was rehearsed remotely and streamed from a New York apartment, following all COVID-19 safety protocols from Actors' Equity Association, the state of New York, and federal guidelines. That apartment is atmospherically bathed in a bluish-pink and the protagonists are more together in that realistic setting than the usual positions at opposites ends of a stage. Having the musicians intermittently wander through the rooms further enhances the atmosphere and the beauty of the music. ..

The performances and inventive filming could have a much larger audience if union rules didn't limit how long these streamed productions could run (a couple of weeks) or the number of tickets available at each performance. But as the pandemic has taught us to grab any good times whenever and however possible, my suggestion is to make time to catch this clever version of a clever show.

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Book, Music, Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Directed by T. Jason Michael Webb
Cast: Nasia Thomas and Nicholas Edwards
Musicians: Cynthia Meng (Keyboard), Sterling Elliott (Cello 1 & 2), Orlando Wells (Violin), Jonathan Linden (Guitar), Chelton Grey (Bass) and Brandon Brooks (Drums). Costumes: Siene Zoe Allen
Production Design: Adam Honore
Make-Up Advisor:Tina Scariano.
Available to stream at Out of the Box Theatrics from March 15-28, 2021
Website with ticket buying options: Reviewed by Elyse Sommer on March 20, 2021

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