The Last 5 Decades overview: divorce musical lacks spectacular stress


his bijou, breezy, two-handed musical from 2001 sees a young New York few take a look at the arc of their romance from to start with assembly to divorce. That is not a spoiler: the twist in writer-composer Jason Robert Brown’s tale is that the woman, Cathy, starts telling the story backwards from the conclude to the starting, and the gentleman, Jamie, does contrariwise. They choose turns to accompany every other’s bouncy, sardonic, competitive quantities on a revolving grand piano, backed by a 5-piece band in the shadows, and only duet – and embrace – in the center, on their wedding working day.

It’s a intelligent, compact, 90-moment piece, zestily acted and sung by Molly Lynch and Oli Higginson. But the conceptual framing that makes it unique is also a limitation. I first observed Jonathan O’Boyle’s manufacturing at Southwark Playhouse precisely – bloody hell! – 11 times before Boris Johnson inaugurated the 1st lockdown in March 2020, and complained then that the show made available two monologues, in which we only see the characters as they see them selves.

Now I’d include that it lacks remarkable rigidity as nicely as dialogue, given that we master in the very first 10 minutes how the tale commences and ends. It’s received scale at the Garrick but misplaced the intimacy of the in-the-round staging at Southwark. It’s continue to charming, with a score comprehensive of recurring earworm signatures and witty rhymes, slickly staged, with likeable, attractive potential customers. But your satisfaction of it will however be in immediate proportion to your tolerance of artsy Manhattan navel-gazing.

Helen Maybanks

Jamie is a Jewish author, his sights firmly set on literary stardom and a very hot “shiksa princess” as reward for his brilliance. Cathy is a gentile wannabe actress waiting around tables, who looks to acquire all her validation from him. The gender stereotyping is balanced out fairly in the rating.

Cathy gets the most effective numbers, from the opening lament I’m Nonetheless Hurting to dizzy accounts of audition humiliations and the obstacle of performing Fiddler on the Roof in Ohio with a midget and a former stripper – “going gradually batty/40 miles east of Cincinatti”. Jamie’s arrogance and self-absorption become ever a lot more apparent. But the complete detail feels a large amount a lot more queasy when you learn Brown’s ex-spouse sued him for basing the tale way too closely on their marriage. And he counter-sued.

And however, and yet… it is an uncomplicated, pleasing enjoy. Higginson’s rock-star stylings are quite amusing in the Schmuel Music, wherever Jamie mansplains his metaphor-laden story about an old Jewish tailor. Lynch has a wonderful combine of aged Hollywood glamour and New York neurosis, and her crystal clear, substantial voice occasionally recalls Kate Bush, particularly when she sends it cantering up the octaves in I Can Do Improved Than That. I unquestionably hope the creation has greater luck now, offered what transpired the past time I noticed it.