Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
The plot of this all-singing musical involves the marriage between Jamie, a writer, and Cathy, an actress. He is Jewish and she is not. In this musical, similar to Sondheim and Furth's musical Merrily We Roll Along and Harold Pinter's drama Betrayal, Jamie tells the story from the start of their relationship going forward and Cathy tells it from the end going backward. It zips about, song by song, from one actor to the other, backward and forward over five year, occasionally putting different periods on stage at the same time. The plot is the story of how they meet, marry, and separate over a five year period.
What's fascinating about The Last Five Years is that the audience never feels lost because the composer has done such a perfect job of showing us where and when we are, at every step of the way. Jason Robert Brown's score is absolutely beautiful, with intense ballads gorgeously sung by Margo Seibert as Cathy such as "Still Hurting" and the comic "A Summer in Ohio." I particularly enjoyed Zak Resnick vividly singing "Shiksa Goddess" and "The Schmuel Song," an entire mock-Yiddish folk tale. Both are harmoniously energizing singing "The Next Ten Minutes" and "Goodbye Until Tomorrow."
ACT is blessed to have two excellent New York actors in this cast (Margo Seibert was in Rocky on Broadway and Zak Resnick was in Mamma Mia!). Both are wonderfully dynamic with superb vocal chops. She has a big, dramatic voice and shows it in her really funny number "Climbing Uphill" about auditioning. She pulls off the combination of keenness to please, panic, and disappointment very well. Zak Resnick holds his own in the vocal department and his voice reminds me of Norbert Leo Butz, who originated the role of Jamie. Zak captures Jamie's magnetism as well as his self-esteem.
The two are skillfully assisted by a seven-member orchestra under the capable direction of Matt Castle. The 85-minute one-act musical is directed with subtlety by Michael Berresse. Tim Mackabee's stage design is interesting, with a very large circle at the top of the stage composed of flowers, and panel lighting by Robert Wierzel on the rear of the stage.
The Last Five Years runs through June 5, 2016. Single tickets (ranging from $20-$105) are available at the A.C.T. Box Office at 415-749-2228 or online at www.actsf.org. Coming up next will David Strathairn and Dan Clegg in Chester Bailey at ACT's Strand Theatre opening on May 25 and running through June 12.