Shin­ing in re­la­tion­ship mu­si­cal

With no bud­get to speak of, two young artists, with some help, have pulled to­gether a show that’s a must-see.


MU­SI­CAL theatre might be one of the most pop­u­lar gen­res on the lo­cal en­ter­tain­ment scene, but that doesn’t make it eas­ier for two of our bright­est young stars to get their own show off the ground. The Last Five Years opens with pre­views on Fri­day and runs un­til April 22 at Pi­eter To­e­rien’s Mon­te­casino Stu­dio Theatre.

But ev­ery­thing they have done puts their en­deav­our on the right course. Niall Grif­fin was first tick­led by the mu­si­cals of Ja­son Robert Brown and when he lis­tened to the mu­sic of The Last Five Years, he knew it was some­thing he would like to stage. He im­me­di­ately con­tacted his buddy Talia Kodesh whom he had met on Beauty and the Beast.

Writ­ten by Tony Award win­ning com­poser Ja­son Robert Brown, the un­con­ven­tional struc­ture of The Last Five Years con­sists of Cathy, a vi­va­cious strug­gling ac­tress, telling her story back­wards while Jamie, a hot­shot up-and-com­ing novelist, tells his story chrono­log­i­cally; the two char­ac­ters only meet once, at their wed­ding in the mid­dle of the show. It’s a re­la­tion­ship mu­si­cal, ex­plain the two par­tic­i­pants. Naledi nom­i­na­tion for her lead in Beauty and the Beast and cur­rently teaches but also per­forms when­ever she has the op­por­tu­nity.

Their en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit serves these two artists well in a do­geat-dog world. They have to work hard at es­tab­lish­ing their ca­reers and can’t sim­ply sit around and wait for man­age­ments to call.

Sh­muk­ler was an easy sell be­cause she loves the work and that’s how she picks her di­rect­ing projects.

“It’s very tough work, so you have to love it,” she says.

All of them love the un­con­ven­tion­al­ity of The Last Five Years as well as the in­ti­macy, un­for­giv­ing as it may be, of the tiny Stu­dio at Pi­eter To­e­rien’s Mon­te­casino Theatre.

Even if they have very lit­tle bud­get to speak of, the project was im­por­tant enough to pull to­gether.

“We had to make it hap­pen,” says Grif­fin as all of them wax lyri­cally about the mu­sic in the show.

This is far re­moved from fran­chise mu­si­cals, which is where they learnt their craft, but here they get a chance to ex­plore the nu­ances and their own in­ter­pre­ta­tions – not al­ways an op­tion in one of the big pro­duc­tions so tightlty man­aged.

Both per­form­ers had qualms about their suit­abil­ity for these par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ters but they’re ex­cited about the process and the even­tual per­for­mance.

The show has been pro­duced at al­most ev­ery ma­jor re­gional theatre in the US, and has been seen in Korea, Ja­pan, the Philip­pines, Ger­many, Italy, Canada, Spain, the UK, and now it is our turn. It’s a must for mu­si­cal fans and prom­ises to be some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent – in the hands of four qual­ity pro­fes­sion­als.

Niall Grif­fin and Talia Kodesh in The Last Five Years, di­rected by Gina Sh­muk­ler and Jo­han Lin­gen­felder.

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