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THE LAST 5 YEARS
Posted by: BroadwayTonyJ 06:09 pm EDT 04/21/21
In reply to: re: Scott / Butz Cabaret highlight - Michael_Portantiere 04:24 pm EDT 04/21/21

The Last Five Years opened at the tiny Northlight Theatre (318 seats) in May, 2001 for a limited run of 5-1/2 weeks. It was hyped as pre-off-Broadway and the biggest EVENT to hit the Chicago area since The Producers. My recollection is that it totally sold out its run before officially opening. My partner and I got the last two available tickets for the 6/6/2001 performance. We were not able to sit together.

Apparently the critics were instructed not to reveal the conceit of the story that Jamie starts at the beginning and Kathleen (later Cathy) tells it from its end. There actually was a hint of this structure in the playbill, but I really did not grasp what it meant until well into the show. The story was interesting and the score very good, but not exactly a satisfying evening.

The Northlight's typical audience is mostly Jewish, older couples 60 and up. At the talkback after the show the moderator was met with a whole lot of kvetching. Ironically a couple weeks after the opening, management had placed a big placard near the building's front entrance. However, since the Northlight venue is located in the rear adjacent to the parking lot, not many people ever noticed it.

According to Mandlebaum, the off-Broadway run was a commercial failure, losing over $1 million. However, in regional theatre it has done remarkably well, easily (along with Seussical) one of the most frequently staged musicals in the Chicago area over the last 20 years.

In the fall of 2003, I had a substantive conversation with one of the show's original leads. That person told me that it was really an "uptown" show that never found its audience at the "downtown" Minetta. Occasionally older attendees in particular would yell things at the actors like "What's wrong with you two? Why don't you face each other?"

I've never seen another stage production of The Last Five Years. However, I do like the movie version a lot. It's well cast and fills out the story quite a bit. Strangely, when it was released, it played at just one small, dilapidated cinema in Chicago and only for a single week. When I saw it on a Saturday afternoon, there were maybe 4 people in the audience including me.

I do own the DVD and have watched it several times. I also play the off-Broadway cast album regularly.
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