Part 5 in a 100-Part Series of "Broadway Shows Maryann Will Never Forgive Herself for Not Seeing"


It's always a gift when you find out that two beloved actors that you know from separate productions have worked together in the past--and there's a soundtrack. I know Sherie Rene Scott from Aida (and P.S. I Love You, strangely enough) and Norbert Leo Butz--fabulous name, no?--from Wicked and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (and Dan in Real Life, strangely enough). Both gave memorable and powerful performances. So you can imagine I was pretty excited when I discovered the off-Broadway one act musical, The Last Five Years.

After careful study of the wikipedia page, here's what I've gathered about the play. It's a one act musical written by Jason Robert Brown that follows the relationship of couple Jamie and Cathy. The first song, "Still Hurting" is sung by Cathy alone after Jamie, her husband, has left her. This was the first song I bought off the soundtrack. My favorite lyrics are from the end of the song:
Jamie is over and where can I turn?
Covered with scars I did nothing to earn
Maybe there's somewhere a lesson to learn
But that wouldn't change the fact
That wouldn't speed the time
Once the foundation's cracked and I'm still hurting

Then the show jumps in time to five years earlier, on the couple's first date. We find out that Jamie is Jewish and Cathy isn't but he still is smitten ("Shiksa Goddess"). The scene then changes to the couple sitting on a dock in Ohio. Jamie is visiting Cathy while she does Summer Stock theater ("See I'm Smiling"). It's been hard on their marriage while she's gone. He has to return to New York though as he's a writer and needs to work on his book. They argue and Cathy accuses Jamie of only thinking of himself.

The next scene shows Jamie telling a friend he's moving in with Cathy. At this point his book is about to be published and he's very happy ("Moving Too Fast"). Unfortunately Cathy's career is leaves much to be desired after we hear her side of a conversation with her agent. We move to Jamie's book signing party where Cathy sits alone and sings about her life with him. She expresses that even though he often seems more into his work than her, she's still in love with him ("A Part of That"). But she realizes she now just follows his lead, no longer acting independently.

Jamie and Cathy celebrate their first Christmas together. He tells her a story he wrote about an old tailor named whose encounter with a magical clock gives him an endless amount of time to create the dress of his dreams. Jamie explains the parallel between the tailor and Cathy: she needs to take the time to "unlock" her dreams. He then gives Cathy present: a watch ("The Schmuel Song").

Later Cathy sits in Ohio writing a letter to Jamie, talking about how frustrated she is to be in away from him and with her crazy fellow cast members ("A Summer in Ohio"). Flashback to when Jamie proposed to Cathy in a rowboat in Central Park. For the song "The Next Ten Minutes" the couple sings their song together in the production. I love, love, love this song. My favorite part isn't my favorite lyric, but it's this skin-tingling moment where Sherie Rene Scott could have totally belted, but she didn't, she sings it like it's the most amazing revelation of her life (and it just might be), especially the first two lines:
I want to be your wife
I want to bear your child
I want to die
Knowing I
Had a long full life In your arms

But I think my favorite lyric of the song is:
Will you share your life with me
For the next ten lifetimes?
For a million summers
Till the world explodes
Till there's no one left
Who has ever known us apart
Maybe this isn't the space for this discussion, but those last two lines hit a good/bad chord with me. It sounds simultaneously terrible and wonderful. Does that make sense? Moving on.

Jamie is having trouble as a newlywed, feeling tempted by every woman he sees now that he is no longer available ("A Miracle Would Happen"). Cathy is struggling with her series of auditions ("When You Come Home to Me") that continue to make her feel inadequate ("Climbing Uphill"). On the phone the couple continue to work on their marriage. Jamie tried to convince a doubtful Cathy that is not cheating on her with his editor Elise. He's excited about a review of his book and wants to celebrate, but Cathy is tired of tagging along behind the "genius's heels."

Jamie is reading an excerpt of his book, clearly about his relationship with Cathy. We then see them fighting, and things seem to be as hard as ever in their marriage. He accuses her of being unsupportive of his work because her career is failing. But he promises that he loves and believes in her ("If I Didn't Believe in You").

Now we move back to when the couple were seriously dating and were driving to the suburbs to visit Cathy's parents. She talks about how she doesn't want to end up like her childhood friend whose married with children in a small town ("I Can Do Better Than That"). At the climax of the song she asks Jamie to move in with her. "I Can Do Better Than That" is a little self-righteous, but honest. Here are my favorite lyrics from it:

I want you and you and nothing but you
Mile and piles of you
Finally I'll have something worthwhile
To think about each morning
You and you and nothing but you
No substitution will do
Nothing but fresh, undiluted and pure
Top of the line and totally mine!
I don't need any lifetime commitments
I don't need to get hitched tonight
I don't want to throw up your walls and defenses
I don't mean to put on any pressure
But I know when a thing is right

Towards the end of their marriage, we see Jamie wake up beside a woman who could be Elise, his publisher ("Nobody Needs to Know"). He justifies his infidelity by blaming Cathy's need to have a "perfectly balanced" relationship. Just like he did in "Shiksa Goddess" to Cathy, he tells this other woman that "I could be in love with someone like you."

The finale takes place at two different times: Cathy at the end of their first date, and Jamie five years later in their apartment as he writes her a farewell note. She sings how she's waited her whole life for someone like him and sings goodbye to him ("Goodbye Until Tomorrow"). At the same time Jamie sings his own farewell ("I Could Never Rescue You"). As she waves goodbye until tomorrow, Jamie simply wished her "goodbye." Intrigued? You should be. And fortunately for us, the rarest of the rare opportunities is available. Google video has the entire play on video with the original cast. Part 1, Part 2. So technically, I CAN forgive myself for not seeing this show (for now). Adorably, Sherie and Norbert were able to work together again in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with John Lithgow:


Holly said...

OH MY GOSH. Maryann. You need to find Lacey Birk at the wedding (since, you know, it's SATURDAY) and talk to her about this musical. Because she loves it, and we listened to the soundtrack on repeat for a good three months when we were roomies sophomore year. I have the fullest confidence that she will sing the whole thing loudly if you ask her. :)

Maryann said...

Oh my gosh I will find her definitely!!! I am so, so, so excited for the wedding!