‘Five Years’ enjoyable for everyone

By Erin Tobin

By Erin Tobin

***Viewpoints Online Exclusive***

Two people may have a differing looks at a relationship they are in, but no matter what that viewpoint is, they would both find “The Last Five Years” intriguing and enjoyable.

The newest play in Riverside Community College’s Off Broadway series is actually a little musical that is anything but commonplace and will delightfully run April 1-10.

This is a musical that is mixed in duality from the start. The stage is decorated with a smoky and amazing set in grays, blacks and reds. Dominating the set are two large sculptures that are reminiscent of that picture where it is never made clear if it is supposed to be a vase or two peoples faces. To either side of the stage simply sat a stool and a chair, creating almost perfect symmetry.

In contrast to this simple set is a plot that can seem very complex at first, but plays out smoothly. Audience members should read the lengthy synopsis in the program a couple of times and still be prepared to be confused when the music starts. “The Last Five Years” tells the story of a couple who relationship ends at the start of things. Cathy is the woman in the failed relationship and she, while being played by musical theater instructor Jodi Julian in a way that just pulls at the heartstrings, starts at this moment and works backwards through time. During that, the young man in the story (whose name is Jamie), played by Matt Sanchez, starts at the beginning at the relationship and works forward to the end.

The two actors take turns telling their characters stories through wonderful songs that capture the rock and roll quality that is popular in recent musicals. Things flow surprisingly smoothly with the Julian and Sanchez never interacting except for the very middle of the play when they are married.

To watch this performance would mean giving 80 minutes and not desiring them back. The musical runs without an intermission so the entire enchantment is never interrupted by the real world. Sanchez deserves a spot on American Idol for both his singing and his looks and is able to mature his character through the play. Julian simply sparkles in the role and gets so wrapped up in the part that at one point she actually has to wipe tears from her own eyes as she sings.

In fact, Julian starts the show singing in her amazing and haunting voice in a fashion that would bring tears to the audience’s eyes. What a wonderful, unusual way to start a musical! Julian’s musical theater students are in very safe hands with her.

To compliment the lovely voices of Julian and Sanchez there is a little orchestra of strings. Though their playing sounds nearly flawless, they are a bit of distraction on stage, especially when pianist Brett Strader gives cues. This cannot be helped though, since there just isn’t any other place to put them in small McDermont Hall.

“The Last Five Years” is an artsy, grown up play put on by talented intelligent actors. It is fast paced and intriguing. It takes its audience through time and emotions and leaves them with a simple desire for more.

This is a rare event that only happens when all the variables fall into place and that’s what Riverside Community College Performing Arts Department provides. This is a musical for people who have never seen one, or maybe not because it will set a high standard for others to come.