By Jacob Ruscoe
Some shows get away from all the glitz and glamour and just tell a story. There are times where musical theatre transcends the fancy costume and strobe lights; a place where the big numbers wait for another time. What we are left during those moments is something raw and powerful. What we have is “The Last Five Years.”
Venice Theatre, like so many theaters across the nation, has been producing musicals with smaller casts and fewer technical demands. Some of these productions may have been performed anyways; but many are a result of the recovery from the pandemic. While I am not sure which category this show falls in, “The Last Five Years” is a perfect selection that provides a meaningful story with a quality that does not deviate from the typical Venice Theatre standard.
In this beautiful piece by Robert Jason Brown, Jamie has met Cathy, and we embark on a journey of love and heartbreak. The story centers around Cathy who has just discovered Jamie has left her as she amplifies in a stunning rendition of ‘Still Hurting.’ We are then taken back through “The Last Five Years” to see the story of love and loss unfold.
Alexander Zickafoose portrays Jamie and we are immediately enamored with his smile and zeal for his “love.” Zickafoose guides the audience through his inner thinking and often displays a raw emotion that allows you to see the true depth of his character, Jamie. There is a sincerity and often brutal honesty that he makes with his choices and consequently Zickafoose leaves you both cheering for and hating his character. He displayed a wide range of vocal prowess and made a strong connection to his counterpart though the two are rarely seen together.
Cathy, played by Jennifer Baker, is strong and powerful throughout. While Baker exhibits numerous emotions from love to heartbreak, her rendition of “Climbing Uphill” presented a softer and humorous side to her character. Her work in this piece allowed the audience to see a vulnerability which helped further provide empathy to a character that you knew you were going to long to see happiness.
The musical under the direction of Kelly Wynn Woodland, and musical director, Mikal Mancini, provides an emotional journey that will pull on your heart strings and test your emotional stamina. “The Last Five Years” isn’t glitz and glamour but it is a work of art that should not be missed.