By Megan Mooney
Love live music at live theatre? Check out The Last Five Years playing at the Toronto Centre for the Arts
As part of their inaugural season at The Toronto Centre for the Arts, Angelwalk Theatre is presenting The Last Five Years. It’s playing in the Studio Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, which is, by the way, a lovely little space.
The Last Five Years is a musical, but not a "mega-musical" by any stretch. There are two actors in the whole show. You will not find any fancy dance numbers here. And, it’s only one act, no intermission, just beginning to end in one sitting.
When I asked my show partner, John, what he thought of it, he said "Well… it was nice." Which is about where I stand on the piece too. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t amazing, it was, well, nice. We both agreed though that we thought that wasn’t an issue with the production as much as it was an issue with the script for us. It just didn’t strike a chord with us (HA! Strike a chord! Get it? Get it? Moving on…).
There were some great moments in the show, but not enough to make it a great show for us. John loved the few times the two characters had the chance to sing together. In his words, "It’s weird, there’s two of them on stage at the same time the whole time, but they hardly ever get to sing together."
And it’s true, in a lot of cases you don’t need the two people there at once, and, since it’s not a chronological piece, and the storytelling happens independently, it was almost like two different shows about the same thing, happening at the same time.
Production wise though, the piece was solid. Eric Craig, who played Jamie, seemed to struggle a bit with the initial songs, but I was at a matinee, it could very well have been an energy issue (energy is always different at a matinee). He caught his stride as the piece went on though, and delivered some excellent singing and acting. Our favourites from Craig were The Schmuel Song, and A Miracle Would Happen. I suspect it’s not a coincidence that those were his songs that allowed for the most playful moments for him.
Adrienne Merrell, who played Catherine, seemed bang on from the very beginning. She was nailing the songs, and was fantastic at acting at the same time as singing. It’s often a hard thing to find someone who is a great actor, and a great singer, and can pull them off at the same time. Merrell is one of those rare people who can and does.
John and I had different sticking points, but they both had to do with the orchestra, which is kind of interesting, because we both agreed that the orchestra was fantastic. John really hated that the pianist/conductor was on the stage. It was messing up his sight lines, so he couldn’t see what was happening, and he generally found it very distracting. He said "there was one song where the piano was used in context, so, for the specific moments that was happening, for that total of about three minutes, it didn’t annoy me."
My quibble with the music was this: When we came into the space the orchestra was warming up, which actually is a sound I usually love, however, it was competing with Billy Joel being played into the audience. The fighting sounds were very uncomfortable for me, and frankly, put me in a bad mood for the performance.
Anyway, all that said and done, bottom line is that John and I had a lovely afternoon at Angelwalk Theatre‘s The Last Five Years. If you don’t need a happy ending (don’t worry, you know in the first song it won’t be a happy ending, this isn’t really a spoiler) to enjoy a nice musical, then check this one out. And, if you’re already a fan of the script, well, this is a good production, and I think you’ll like it.
– The Last Five Years is playing until May 23, 2010 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts Studio Theatre (5040 Young Street)
– Shows run Wed-Sat @ 8 p.m.; Sat-Sun @ 2 p.m.
– Ticket prices range are Wednesday $33, Thursday/Friday $35, Saturday Evening $40, Matinees $35, Under 30 with I.D. $25, Groups of 10 or more $35
– Tickets available by phone at 416-872-1111, in person at the box office, or online at www.angelwalk.ca
Photo of Eric Craig and Adrienne Merrell by Katherine Verendia