Ocean State Theatre Company's current show is the two character musical "The Last Five Years", a 90 minute show by Jason Robert Brown. It was written in 2001 and is about the relationship between an aspiring Jewish writer and a wannabe Irish actress. But Cathy Hiatt, the actress tells her side of the story beginning at the end of her relationship with Jamie Wellerstein and works backwards to their first date, while Jamie starts with the first date and works his way to break up. His career flourishes while hers never seems to gather momentum. His faith turns to infidelity while her devotion turns to frustration. The characters don't directly interact except for a wedding song in the middle when their timelines intersect. "The Last Five Years" was inspired by Brown's failed marriage to actress, Theresa O'Neill. Director Joel Kipper infuses his two performers with high energy, gives them keen insight into their characters. He softens the character of Jamie, making him a little more likable, creating an astounding contemporary musical that the audience can savor and enjoy thoroughly. The audience is moved to tears at the heartfelt performances and leaped to their feet in a standing ovation at the close of the show.
Joel's dynamite blocking on the unit set, keeps the show flowing smoothly from scene to scene. Musical director Steven Ray Watkins taught the intricate Sondheimesque score which includes light jazz, pop, classical, klezmer, Folk, Latin and Rock with introspective ballads, arias and some comic numbers. Paul Buono plays keyboards producing a splendid sound with his three piece combo. The two marvelous performers, David Demato as Jamie and Alyssa Gorgone as Cathy capture the essence of these characters and deliver the goods in this story of romance, marriage and separation. Their portrayals of exuberance of first love, happiness at the wedding and angst at the break-up, are rendered superbly.
David's awesome tenor voice soars in all his numbers including the hilarious "The Schmuel Song" when he brings a Christmas Tree to Cathy's apartment and is reminiscent of "Meeskite" from "Cabaret", "If I Didn't Believe in You" is when he berates Cathy about her talent in a touching ballad, "Nobody Needs to Know" is about his betrayal of his marriage vows to Cathy and the gut wrenching "I Could Never Rescue You". Alyssa's gorgeous soprano voice soars in "I'm Still Hurting", a haunting ballad about their break up, "A Summer in Ohio", which sounds like a 1940's type song, where she describes the crazy people and shenanigans in stock company, "I Can Do Better Than That" where she describes her past relationships and "Goodbye Until Tomorrow" about the start of their relationship which the audience realizes is over. She is hopeful and upbeat in the latter song while Jamie says "I Could Never Rescue You", a powerful ballad to close this emotion packed show. So for a contemporary musical that will resonate with audiences, be sure to catch "The Last Five Years" at Ocean State Theatre Company.