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Jayna Katz and Adam Woolsey create fireworks in The Last 5 Years (Review) July 14, 2012

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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Those explosions you heard over downtown Jackson the last couple nights have been caused by Jayna Katz and Adam Woolsey blowing the roof off of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra performance space during The Last 5 Years, the Jason Robert Brown two-person musical.

Telling the story of a meeting, a wedding, and a breakup (hers from end to beginning, his from beginning to end), the song-cycle musical is a cult favorite of musical theater folks and a standard repertoire piece across the country. KW Productions/Ann Arbor Musical Theater Works does a spectacular job with their presentation. Performing in the lovely JSO space, the production brings the story to emotional life, backed up by an ever-present orchestra stage center (and they sound superb. Kudos also to sound engineers KJ Rowan and Amanda Mahoney). Conductor/Pianist Lora Knight and her ensemble make beautiful music together.

Artistic director Chip Mezo keeps the affair moving at a swift pace (90 minutes without an intermission) but the true stars of the show are Jayna Katz and Adam Woolsey, who infuse this powder-keg of songs with enough energy to lift the roof. Its hard to review either performance individually  because they are so interdependent on each other — and what they achieve here is spectacular: lilting ballads, bitter drama, and soaring emotion. Jayna has a strong background in musical theater and this performance sends her off to her move to Chicago in spectacular style. Adam has performed locally and in NYC, and was a contestant on American Idol Season 11. Together, they are a force to reckon with, and you should not miss it.

The near-sold out audience leapt to its feet at the conclusion of the show: and if you plan on seeing it, call your reservations in right now…the theater space is small and tickets will surely be gobbled up fast. Word of mouth is spreading like wildfire. Let me put it in print — do not miss this production.

Catch the fireworks two more times: Saturday night July 14th at 8:00, and Sunday the 15th at 3:00. Tickets can be reserved by emailing thelast5years.jso@gmail.com. Tickets are 15.00 at the door. JSO is located at 215 W. Michigan Avenue, downtown Jackson, MI. For you Ann Arborites, thats a short 35 minute drive.

Outstanding “The Last 5 Years” at Encore (Review) May 27, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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Steve DeBruyne (Jamie) and Thalia Schramm (Cathy) turn in two excellent performances in Encore’s current offering, Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last 5 Years”. These two performers sing-through 75 minutes of intermission-less ballads, pop songs, and story songs to tell the tale of a 5-year relationship;  her tale beginning at story’s end and working backwards, his starting at the beginning and working towards its end. They meet only once, at the middle of the story during their wedding.

With a simple, effective, and very clever set design (Steven V. Rice), the audience is seated on two sides of the black box theater space, and it works very well for this production. Steven must also be mentioned for his outstanding lighting design — possible the best I have seen in an Encore production.

The orchestra, under the nimble direction of Brian E. Buckner sounds terrific — Brian also plays keyboard, joined by Fran Wakefield on Violin, and Alex Massingill on bass. Director Daniel Cooney keeps the action flowing quickly from scene to scene (assisted by Carrie Jay Sayer, and co-directed by Steve DeBruyne). Thalia Schramm’s costume design is simple and efficient, and works just right for the many scenes and the passage of time.

I particularly enjoyed Steve’s story-song “The Schmuel Song” and Thalia’s “A Summer in Ohio” — which contains the funniest lyric in the show, about the “summer in Ohio with a gay midget named Karl playing Tevye and Porgy”. Those unfamiliar with Jason Robert Brown’s superb score will find that it is beautifully presented here, and it’s so good  that you will want to see the show a second time to admire the expert musical craftsmanship at play in this work.

In short, I loved this production. I loved the performances. And I loved that Encore continues to provide some of the better current musical theater pieces available in the modern repertoire. More of this! Less of Annie!

Go see it. Highly recommended.

The Last 5 Years continues at The Encore Musical Theatre Company through June 5th — 3126 Broad Street, Dexter, MI — 734-268-6200 — http://www.theencoretheatre.org