Intimate musical on stage at Vivaldi

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IN the relentless search for theatrical novelty, Jason Robert Brown’s 2001 boutique musical, “The Last Five Years”,   has been a gift to directors.

Cast 1, the proposal:  Vanessa De Jager and Fraser Findlay
Cast 1, the proposal: Vanessa De Jager and Fraser Findlay

Based on his own real-life relationship, it was the subject of legal action on the grounds that the story of the show represented his former relationship too closely. Brown was obliged to change at least one song and tone down the story, but the result, as director Richard Block’s team is quick to point out is “a fabulous story with both beautiful and stirring music, as well as upbeat, toetapping songs.”

It’s been staged once before at Teatro Vivaldi by Leisa Keen, and in full production at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, but now Bloch, aided by a live band and a full set by local designer/singer, Thompson Quan Wing, is embarking on a production at Vivaldi with a double cast. From April 24-26 it will be Vanessa De Jager and Fraser Findlay then from April 30 to May 2, Josie Dunham and Mathew Chardon O’Dea will take over.

Findlay as Jamie agonises over being married
Findlay as Jamie agonises over the married state

The show follows the five year relationship between Cathy and Jamie from when they meet, get married and eventually separate. Unusually, the story format sees Cathy tell her story from the end of the relationship back to the beginning while Jamie tells his story from the beginning to the end —we only see them together one, pictured above at dress rehearsal yesterday.

Block told “CityNews” that the primary appeal of the show, which had been suggested to him by De Jager, was in the story “somehow it’s something we can all relate to, the ups and downs of a relationship and the chemistry is so wonderful.”

One of the unusual aspect of this production is the double casting, so that different couples perform in different evenings. Block explained that since he had decided to pay professional rates to the performers to give them experience, more people got an opportunity and in any case, if there were an accident or unforeseen event, this got around the problem of understudying.

“We love the environment here at Vivaldi’s for performing work,” he said. The music is lovely, a really enjoy the music and I still get goosebumps when I hear it done by good singers… Lots of people said I couldn’t cast this musical in Canberra, but I did.”

“The Last Five Years”, at Teatro Vivaldi, ANU Arts Centre, Friday 24th Saturday 25th April at 8pm Sunday 26th April at 2pm Thursday 30th April, Friday 1st may at 8pm Saturday 2nd may at 2pm and 8pm. Bookings to 62572718 or stagecenta.com

Tickets: Dinner and Show 8pm   Reserves: A: $90 B: $80 C: $70 Canapes and Show 2pm Reserves: A: $50 B: $40 C; $30

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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