The Last Five Years
There is a Sondheim musical titled Merrily We Roll Along that is told in reverse. It begins with some people who used to be friends, creating musicals, but have broken up. Each scene then takes us a little further into the past, until they are young and vigorous and full of hope. (It was a big flop, but I was lucky enough to see a production at the University of Oregon. And I do mean that sincerely. It’s not a bad show.)
In this mini-musical Jason Robert Brown works a variation on that. Anna Kendrick’s story line begins at the end, with her singing of the break-up and how sad she is. Then her lover, Jeremy Jordan, has his first number where he is bursting with new love and hope for the future. They alternate songs like that, each song a solo, until the middle, where they get married and sing a duet. Then her songs get happier and his get sadder.
It’s an odd structure, but once I figured it out, it worked okay. Another odd thing is that, aside from the marriage number, all the songs are solos. Even beyond that, there are only two or three other people who even have lines, and they could easily have been eliminated. This really is about just the two of them. It must be a favorite of small community groups, since it could be mounted on a bare stage with no scenery or other people, requiring only the musicians, or recordings of the music.
This will not be for everybody, I’m sure. But once again I am impressed by Anna Kendrick. She seems to have come out of nowhere, in the movies, anyway, with Up in the Air, and suddenly she was a big star with parts in the Twilight Saga, and singing parts in Pitch Perfect one and two and Into the Woods. She seems to be one of those people you just instinctively like. She will turn 30 on my birthday this year. I think she will go far.