The Last Five Years @ Garrick Theatre*

Stars: 5
Running until: 17th October
Book your tickets at https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/the-last-five-years/

Following 2 New Yorkers in their 20s, The Last Five Years follows Cathy and Jamie over the course of their 5 year relationship. The uniqueness in this storytelling is while Jamie charts their relationship chronologically, Cathy charts it from the end. If you’ve been here for a while you’ll know I absolutely adore this musical, full stop. I fell in love with the Adam Kantor/Betsy Wolfe recording, loved the film and was bowled over by the JRB directed production in 2016 with Samantha Barks and Jonathan Bailey. (Who is surprised though, really?). So naturally when I’ve experienced a production that has set the highest bar possible, I was nervous going into this specific production when it first opened at the Southwark Playhouse pre pandemic lockdown. After 2 runs at the Southwark Playhouse and an online streaming version, I can confidently say I had absolutely nothing to worry about because this production is absolutely astonishing. I’m so glad this has transferred to the West End so more people can experience the absolute delight that is firstly, the musical itself. Secondly, the incredible performances of the 2 leads. And thirdly, Jonathan O’Boyle’s terrific direction.

The beating heart of this production is the 2 lead performances from the couple at the centre of it all. As Cathy, Molly Lynch brings a spunky feistiness to her performance, which shines throughout. She nails in the comedic timing in songs like A Summer In Ohio/I Can Do Better Than That where she just absolutely radiates the feeling of love at the start of a relationship. But then when you get to the end from Cathy’s perspective in songs like See I’m Smiling and Still Hurting, the sadness and rage really comes out. It’s actually quite sad when you think about seeing the relationship from this perspective. The finale of the show made me genuinely cry on press night (actually takes a lot for me to cry at a musical, particularly one I know well!) because it made me think ‘wow, she was really full of hope at one point’. And we’ve all been to rock bottom and back at some point. Or maybe I was just having one of those days. Anyway, Molly Lynch just absolutely nailed Cathy for me, I thought she was fantastic. Also, her voice is impeccable. The range! Special mention goes to the note she pulls out during Climbing Uphill. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know. If you haven’t, let this be an incentive for you to go.

Playing Jamie on the other hand is Oli Higginson, who same as Molly Lynch, just completely nails Jamie for me. I really liked how at the start Jamie starts off as maybe quite naïve rather than self assured as I think he is typically viewed as. As such, it’s all the more effective when you get to A Miracle Would Happen and the coin flips. His vocals are to die for as well, special mention goes to the note in Moving Too Fast. Watch the West End Live perform, you’ll know it when you hear it.

I think historically, It is the easier option to completely blame Jamie for the downfall of their relationship given [insert event that I promise I’m not justifying] happens. However, with Jamie listing off all these women he’s been in relationships with in Shiksa Goddess, it made me realise that, actually, it was right there from the start. Perhaps he used the relationship as a way to find a muse. In a way that you could argue was Cathy only looking for someone to ‘cut through these strings’ as she says? Although I’ve never been married, never sat in an audition room for hours or published a novel but the musical really speaks volumes to me from both sides of these characters. I’m definitely ahead in my career than most people are at my age. But I also know what it’s like to feel like to look around and see everyone else seemingly moving ahead at a much faster pace than you. And on top of that, there’s the whole miscommunication between the 2 of them which is constant throughout. This leads me onto the actor-musician part of the production.

When this part of the production was initially announced, I was so curious into how this folded in. It’s such an ‘out of the box’ decision as well, it’s an incredibly interesting prospect. While yes, Cathy and Jamie present their own songs individually, to still have the one actor playing piano while other is singing, this really hits home that they are still present and part of the story. Even if they’re not necessarily in the driving seat. But the emotion hits harder when you see Jamie and Cathy both playing the piano during The Next Ten Minutes. I also really liked how other instruments were included into the performance some of the songs as well. The set overall is really impressive. To have the piano spin round, adding to the invisible layer of miscommunication between the pair having them literally go round in circles. Having a raked staircase at the back to not only elevate the performances but add to the story which is particularly evident in A Summer In Ohio. The use of props and the direction given were just sublime. I don’t really have any other adjectives to describe it any better than *chef’s kiss*. Truly. The moment that really stood out to me was having Cathy sat opposite staring at the photos of all of Jamie’s former flames, looking into her future as just someone he was once with. Jonathan O’Boyle is truly an exceptional director and this production really showcases this. He’s somehow managed to find all these little details to fit in to just really heighten the story and the relationship between the two characters.

I really, really love this musical and I’m so happy that, not only is it back in London, but it’s got a huge as hell sign plastered in a big theatre in the West End. Go and see for the absolute knock out performances, direction, score, EVERYTHING. It’s also 90 minutes straight through no interval. Even better. I do hope this isn’t the last we see of this production as I believe it is just as good as the Jason Robert Brown directed one. But I do also want to note that I hope we get to see more pairings of Cathy and Jamie that are outside of the white/cis/straight binary as I feel like this has been quite overdone and more people should have the opportunity to play these wonderfully complex characters in the future.

If you made it to the end of this rambling mess, I really do salute you.

Until next time

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