About the Show
The Last Five Years is a contemporary song-cycle musical that ingeniously chronicles the five year life of a marriage, from meeting to break-up... or from break-up to meeting, depending on how you look at it. Written by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Songs For A New World), it's an intensely personal look at the relationship between a writer and an actress told from both points of view.
The show's Off-Broadway premiere received seven Drama Desk Award nominations (including outstanding music, lyrics, and orchestrations), two Lucille Lortelle Award nominations, and an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination.
The Last Five Years is presented in one act without intermission.
The performance lasts approximately 90 minutes.
Synopsis and Songs
WARNING: This synopsis of the play contains spoilers.
Cathy and Jamie’s relationship has lasted five years. As the story begins, Cathy is at the end of the relationship and Jamie is at the beginning. With inter-cutting scenes, we watch Jamie move forward in time as Cathy moves backward.
Cathy has just found a note from her husband, Jamie, signifying the end of their marriage. While she still struggles with their break-up, she feels he has easily moved on without her.
Five years prior, Jamie has just met Cathy. He is soaring from the high of it. He recounts his past relationships, feeling as if he’s been waiting for her all his life.
"See I'm Smiling"
Cathy is hopeful for the healing of their marriage. Jamie has come to meet her in Ohio where she has been working as a performer. She believes he will see her show and they will be able to spend time together. Though it’s her birthday, she is let down when he has to leave earlier than expected for a party back home.
"Moving Too Fast"
After their first date, Jamie has made a phone call to a potential literary agent—a contact made through his college professor. Unbelievably, this agent seems interested in his work. He is 23 years old. Soon his career begins to soar and Jamie decides he wants to move in with Cathy. His life is moving at top speed, but no matter. He’s living the way he wants to.
"A Part of That"
Cathy’s career is struggling. She’s been turned down by a theatrical agent. As she waits patiently during a book signing of Jamie’s someone asks her what it’s like to be married to a famous author. She expresses how she rides out his manic writing spells where he completely shuts her out emotionally then suddenly lets her back in.
"The Schmuel Song"
It’s their second Christmas together and Jamie reads a story he wrote for her. It is intended to inspire her to go out and pursue her dreams of becoming an actress. He tells her to quit her day job and go and be happy. He also tells her how lucky he is to be in love with her.
"A Summer in Ohio"
Cathy has obtained a summer stock job in Ohio. The situation is less than desirable, but she’s trying to make the most of it. Meanwhile, Jamie is back in New York, his latest book a bestseller. Cathy writes a letter to Jamie as she anxiously awaits his visit.
"The Next Ten Minutes"
Jamie is alone preparing himself to propose to Cathy. She appears in her wedding dress and meets him at the altar. Physically together for the first time during this show, they exchange vows and promises of an undying love.
"A Miracle Would Happen"
Jamie, now married, begins to feel the temptation and attraction of other women he meets at parties. His success has made him the center of attention, and though he feels the pull, he loves Cathy and believes his marriage will remain strong. He calls Cathy who is out of town working, and promises to meet her as soon as he can escape his publisher.
"When You Come Home to Me"
Cathy has just auditioned for and been given another job.
Cathy shares with her father the stress and difficulty of daily auditioning and daily rejection. At another audition, she flounders as a million different things about her life with Jamie race through her head. She is determined, however, to have her own career and not live in the shadow of her now-famous husband. Jamie is doing a reading at a bookstore. The passage he reads is a metaphor for Cathy’s drive and the feeling of his isolation from her.
"If I Didn't Believe in You"
Jamie is in the middle of a fight with Cathy. He has just had a book published and wants her to go to the party the publisher is throwing for him. She refuses. He doesn’t feel supported by her and does not understand why she is angry.
"I Can Do Better Than That"
Cathy is driving Jamie to meet her parents. She is happy and excited and talks about her disappointments of the past in contrast to her bright future with him.
"Nobody Needs to Know"
Jamie wakes up beside another woman. He knows he must go see Cathy in Ohio. Fighting panic and a feeling of inevitability, he admits to the other woman that he has fallen in love with her.
"Goodbye Until Tomorrow"
Cathy floats on air at the end of her first date with Jamie. They have shared their first kiss and she wants the magical moment to last forever. She bids him goodbye until tomorrow.
"I Could Never Rescue You"
At the same time, Jamie ends their relationship. He writes a letter letting her know that he is leaving and bids her goodbye.