my wife and i went to see Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years last night. It was presented by Riverbend Theatre Collective, which is run by an old friend of hers from her undergrad days.
i don't think i'm well-versed at talking about theatre. i've seen many of my wife's pieces throughout the years, but they're performance pieces, not what i assume people would call "straight" theatre. with my wife's work, i feel as though i can easily speak about the sounds made on stage, the movement going on, and the cadence / tempo of things. but with musical theatre, i have never felt like i know how to discuss things with my wife, or with other people who come from a theatre background. in the past — in chicago — when i would see what i consider to be a stereotypical musical (with actors on stage accentuating their voices with ridiculously cartoonish whines, and with the songs being about every mundane thing going on on-stage) i would usually tell my wife "that was a pile of shit," subsequently asking her, "what's wrong with me?... what am i missing?..."
fast forward to last night, watching allison and dana on stage as L5Y's Catherine and Jamie, and i have to say i was floored. i loved it. it really moved me, and i was shocked at how much so. i've had it on my mind in the last 24 hours, and i'm not sure what it was. i don't know how to eloquently talk about singing and acting. but i do feel confident talking about the mood of a piece like this. for those of you that don't know, this contemporary (5 years old?... 6?...) musical features only the two characters i just mentioned, and you follow them through 5 years of their life, as they fall in love and fall out of love. for more info on the piece, including the way the time flows in opposite directions for the two characters, hit up wikipedia here.
so, the musical opens up with this number:
i'm not sure what it was — i think it was the lighting, the look on allison's face, and definitely the verse structure of this song (even though i didn't care for the other parts of this particular song) — but i was kind of floored. right away. and it seems like the entire audience was too (my wife would shed some tears several times during the night, and i would hear people around me go "wow" a lot). i guess i love sad "songs" — be them actual songs, or be them poems, films, art, and theatre. i can't really describe it any better without my words seeming incredibly cheesy. i mean, we were watching two people fall apart from one another, and it the situations were very real, not overblown nonsense. it seems that it was easy to come away with a bit of a bittersweet taste in your mouth, happy about how life deals you some sad blows here and there.
one more thing about the music - i also loved this song very much. now, before you check it out, you have to mentally mute the vocals from this particular youtube version of the production, because it sounds like kermit the frog is singing this:
do you hear how the piano barely walks around on that same line during the first couple minutes? it was great live. from my very little experience with musical theatre, it was very stripped-down , and i loved it.