THE FIRST TRUE MILLENNIAL COUPLE BASED ON THE TALENT OF ITS TWO LEAD ACTORS, “THE LAST FIVE YEARS’ IS THE NEW HEARTBREAK
Last Spring 2015, the concert version of THE LAST FIVE YEARS charmed The Geary Theatre in a very successful run. American Conservatory Theatre closes out its 2015 - 2016 season with a new, fully staged production of this same musical. This sharp new version is now on stage at the Geary stage through June 5th. Directed by Michael Berresse, this is an enduring 85 minute set of music and songs that is tender and heartbreaking at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater.
Tony Award winning composer of Parade and Honeymoon in Vegas, Jason Robert Brown, brings us this millennial couple musical featuring two New Yorkers, a struggling actor Cathy and a popular writer Jamie. The two celebrate one of those first love marriages that millennials consider that perfect match without considering much more. But five years pass so soon, and the love is gone.
The pop musical, originally produced off-broadway in 2002, stars Margo Seibert as Cathy and Zak Resnick as Jamie. They play two ambitious New Yorkers whose love affair we witness in this 85-minute production. Jamie hopes for a "Shiksa Goddess” while Cathy needs a man who can commit to a real relationship. The musical is presented in two views - Cathy begins from the end of their relationship as Jamie’s story moves linearly from the beginning.
Cathy opens the show with a heartbreaking rendition of “Still Hurting.” We follow her journey in the songs “Still Smiling,” “I’m A Part of That.” and “Summer in Ohio.” Margot was perfectly cast in this role as she was able to maneuver through these difficult songs and show the character’s strength and vulnerability at same time. Her sincere delivery of each line pierces through the audience’s hearts while her belting those high notes was flawless and showed a myriad of emotions her character is going through.
While we see Cathy struggle with their relationship, Jamie is portrayed as this up-and-coming novelist who’s beginning to see success. Zak as Jamie is very charming and full of swagger. He effectively conveys the confidence of a man who’s about to become a celebrity. Zak’s smooth delivery of “Shiksa Goddess” and “Moving Too Fast” left the audience to swoon and forget how the character of Jamie can most of the time be interpreted as shallow. He follows this up with an amusing take on “Schmuel Song” which was big hit with the audience.
The two are who rarely seen together is finally paired and meet onstage in the hauntingly beautiful song “The Next Ten Minutes.” Here Cathy and Jamie’s paths cross as we witness their engagement and marriage to each other. Margot and Zak brought sincerity and so much truth that made this song so alluring and beautiful.
In the second half of the story we see how their love and marriage is dominated by their careers, as Jamie becomes a successful author and Cathy struggles as an actress, failing to get any acting gigs as presented in the songs “A Miracle Would Happen/When You Come Home To Me” and ‘Climbing Uphill.” Resnick is skillful at capturing Jamie's bloated ego while still captivating in showing his vulnerability on “If I Didn’t Believe in You” and “Nobody Needs to Know” as he sings “since I need to be in love with someone, maybe I could be in love with someone like you.” Seibert is fantastic as Cathy. She displayed all the right emotions - showed depth in acting, maneuvered through the difficult score with ease and conviction. Was very believable as the lost lover and was charming and full of spunk in “I Can Do Better Than That.”
The set is very sleek framed with a hallowed crown of flowers hanging from overhead designed by Tim Mackabee. A plausible row boat is a keen way to show the couple in the very few scenes they do together. Also a clear way to show how rocky their love really is. They sing “ The Next Ten Minutes“ together in the moving row boat under a wonderful moonlight designed by Robert Wierzel. He uses the constant moving walls and screens to change the feeling of the couple with his lighting moods and was very effective in the final scene “Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You.”
Costume designer Callie Floor has both in modern millennial ware, Resnick wears iconic red converse and sleek tops and pants to show off his top model body. Seibert is more about color and high stepping heels and boots and always has that 20’s something New York look. Music director Matt Castle has a full pit of first rate musicians that bring the best out of Margo and Zak. Ka Harada’s Sound Design made excellent use of the open space of the modern set and his crisp sound generated by the actors and musicians penetrate through the audience.
Michael Berresse direction elicits a standout performance from his two actors. This love story happens in the new media chaos, of a twitter facebook feed, and it works both with charm and sadness. THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a classic relationship musical that Sondheim himself would approve of. The first true millennial couple based on the talented strength of its two lead players. Margo and Zak will both bring you tears and cheers as the opening night sold out crowd at the Geary were on their feet as soon as the lights faded.
American Conservatory Theater Presents
'THE LAST FIVE YEARS'
By Jason Robert Brown,
Directed by Michael Berresse
Music Director Matt Castle
Featuring: Margo Seibert and Zak Resnick
Through: June 5
Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco
Running time: 85 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $20-$115; 415-749-2228, www.act-sf.org
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/ACTSanFrancisco/?fref=ts
Photos by Kevin Berne