note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
A new company has sprung up overnight in Watertown. BLUE SPRUCE THEATRE puts down some strong roots with its very first production, the bittersweet chamber musical, THE LAST FIVE YEARS (through April 15th). Jason Robert Brown’s two person “mirror” musical is an adventurous undertaking for a fledgling company. The man sees and sings the story forward while the woman does just the opposite. When the piece starts, he’s just falling in love with her but she’s at the end, experiencing their breakup. Brown’s exquisite songs, rather than dramatic action, propel the show. We only once see the sparks which ignited the relationship, when the two trajectories collide midway through the story. Yet director Jesse Strachman keeps the concept clear, grounding the story with an actual token of their affection. Otherwise set and props are minimal.
One of the loveliest elements of the Blue Spruce production is the orchestra, perched stage left, as if it were a character in the story. Michael Kreutz has assembled some of the best musicians around, to orchestrate the emotional life of the piece. Jeffrey Prescott and Alyson Van De Giesen play the self-absorbed, but charming writer and the determined, but needy actress. They handle the material well, with Van De Giesen excelling in the humorous “Ohio” song and Prescott winning us over with the “Schmuel” fable—which features Stanley Silverman’s soaring violin. Kevin Grudecki’s soft rhythm on the guitar in counterpoint to Sandy Kiefer’s melancholy cello for the “Goodbye” song brings home the sadness we’ve all felt at some time in our lives. Isn’t that all you can ask of a work of art, that it touches you?