Friday, April 8, 2022



Tracy Noble and cast of "The Last Five Years: In Concert"

 Directed by Jonathan Rush – Musical Direction by Jessica Coote.

Lighting and Sound by Sidestage  Production Services

Belconnen Community Theatre 5 – 9th April.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

“The Last Five Years” is a sweet two-hander musical written and composed by Jason Robert Brown which chronicles the breakdown, over a five year period, of the marriage of actress Cathy to Jewish author Jamie.

It differs from other similar musicals in that Jamie’s story is told in chronological order starting just after the couple first met, while Cathy’s story is told in reverse chronological order beginning the show at the end of the marriage. Many find this complex device detracts from their enjoyment of this musical.

The show is also notorious because of subsequent court battles between Brown and his ex-wife who claimed that relationship details featured in the musical violated non-disclosure agreements within their own divorce decree.

However you need to know none of this to enjoy this charmingly performed concert version, for which the storyline has been abandoned and the songs which tell the story are shared between six talented performers who make up the cast,  Dave Collins, Belle Nicol, Tracy Noble, Jonathan Rush, Dave Smith and Rachel Thornton.

Dave Collins and cast of "The Last Five Years : In concert"

Although presented in correct order, each song is treated as a little drama of its own. The lyrics are unchanged, the performers still address each other as Cathy and Jamie, but in some cases the songs are performed by cast members of different gender to the characters in the musical.  This works very well in revealing unsuspected nuances within the songs, but occasionally becomes confusing for those looking for a storyline.

Presented in a simple, attractive setting with the full cast on stage for most of the performance with intelligent direction by Jonathan Rush, this revue style presentation allowed each cast member to work to their strengths and showcase their considerable individual talents between attractively staged ensemble numbers. 

Having impressed earlier in the show with his comedic talents in “Shiksa Goddess”, Dave Collins sings of superb rendition of “When You Come Home to Me” before launching into a tongue-twisting version of the same song detailing random thoughts running through his mind as he repeats the song in an audition. 

Dave Smith - Dave O'Neill - Tracy Noble - Rachel Thornton - Jonathan Rush
"The Last Five Years : In Concert".

Similarly Rachel Thornton opens the show with the lovely “Still Hurting”, then later surprises with a very funny interpretation of “The Schmuel Song”.  Jonathan Rush grabs attention with his gender-bending rendition of “See I’m Smiling” then reveals a different side of his characterisation in the jaunty “I Can Do Better Than That”.  

Dave Smith impressed with his superb laid-back version of “Summer in Ohio” then almost stops the show with his dramatic rendition of “If I Didn’t Believe in You”. Tracy Noble charmed with her version of “A Part of That” while interpreting a different mood later with “Goodbye Until Tomorrow”, and Belle Nicol demonstrated her versatility with “Moving Too Fast” then later with the soulful ballad “Nobody Needs to know”.

Particular joys of this production are the superb orchestra conducted by Jessica Coote,  led by Vanessa Chen on violin and Lucinda Antcliff on piano with Monica Cao and Michael Bowrey on cellos, Kat Woodward on Guitar and Steven O’Mara on bass,  which accompanied each song with sensitive, complex arrangements without ever overwhelming the all-important lyrics, and the excellent lighting and sound achieved by Sidestage Production Services in creating an attractive environment for each song.

“The Last Five Years in Concert” is a surprisingly polished presentation which deserves to be seen by many more than will get the opportunity during this short season.

                                                   Photos by Kyle Maley.

    This review first published in the digital edition of "CITY NEWS" on 7th April 2022.