Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Zander's recent review of The Road: My Life with John Denver
Director Kevin Connors smoothly stages this production and he has two terrific actors, Nicolas Dromard and Jennifer Malenke, playing the leading roles. Even if you feel you have seen your share of productions of The Last Five Years, Music Theatre of Connecticut's current staging is highly recommended.
Performed on a minimal set (designed by Carl Tallent) and featuring an ideal four-piece band, The Last Five Years alternates between songs for Cathy (Jennifer Malenke) and husband Jamie (Nicolas Dromard) as it examines the complexities of their marriage. The unique aspect of this musical's structure is that Cathy's songs go in reverse order, beginning with the aftermath of their divorce, while Jamie's songs go forward, from the time that the couple first meet. As it happens, Cathy and Jamie have relatively little time onstage together.
As Jamie, Nicolas Dromard is something of a revelation. With a powerful singing voice and a strong onstage presence, Dromard immediately wins the audience over with his amusing first song, "Shiksa Goddess," and he just gets better as the musical goes along. Dromard finds unexpected nuances in his lines and lyrics, adding further shadings to the character. It is a compliment when I say that Dromard's performance ranks right alongside the work of Norbert Leo Butz, who created this role in the original Off-Broadway production.
As Cathy, Jennifer Malenke proves to be the perfect match for her costar. I've always enjoyed Cathy's songs a bit more than Jamie's, and Malenke manages to wring all the tears and laughter out of her numbers. She is a fine singer and actress, and she especially shines in her final two songs, "I Can Do Better Than That" and "Goodbye Until Tomorrow." She is also quite believable playing a struggling actress, and her audition scenes in the show are a riot.
If I had any complaints about the production, it would be that I wish costume designer Diane Vanderkroef had provided more flattering dresses and shoes for Jennifer Malenke to wear, and also that the intensity that the two actors provide in their respective opening songs is almost too much for the tiny stage and theatre at Music Theatre of Connecticut. Still, these are just minor problems in a production that otherwise gets everything right.
Director Kevin Connors deserves credit for keeping the pacing of the show just about perfect and for eliciting such wonderful performances from his two actors. By all means, get to Music Theatre of Connecticut to see The Last Five Yearsand make sure you bring tissues.
The Last Five Years continues performances at Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk, CT through April 24, 2016. For tickets, please visit www.mtcmainstage.org or call the box office at 203-454-3883.