I just got back from seeing one of the best musical productions I have seen locally in a long time and it is at Music Mountain Theatre directed by Michael Moeller and starring Karl Weigand and Jennifer Fischer called “The Last Five Years.”
Live music is provided by Sue Den Outer at the keyboard. Her abilities are unparalleled in making one piano sound like a full orchestra.
The show is by composer Jason Robert Brown based on the dissolution of his marriage. Fischer and Weigand are amazing talents who take you on the journey of two people falling in and out of love. The show is both funny and poignant.
Jamie is an aspiring author of Jewish descent. He falls in love with Cathy, an aspiring actress with a Christian background. The show tells the story from both his and her perspective.
However, the male version done by Jamie is told in chronological order, while the female version is told by Cathy going backwards from the breakup.
I highly recommend any theater student or lover of theater to come to see Weigand and Fischer give us a master class on the art of acting in song. This show is a roller coaster of feelings, where being in the moment never stops.
This is what musical theater is about. It is knowing all the variations and emotions of a character and their actions. It is being in the moment, which is nuanced when dealing with the reality of love and its loss.
Karl Weigand is one of the best actors in the area. In this show especially, he exudes a strong charisma that makes it impossible to look away from.
Fischer has the daunting task of telling her emotionally conflicted and angst-filled story backwards. She not only is up to that task but surpasses expectations, showing her vulnerability and her fears. From previous performances, we knew she would sing beautifully and be funny.
She was with Weigand before in “Aida” and both were exceptional, garnering praise. But nothing prepared us for both her and Weigand’s tour de force, breakout performances as Cathy and Jamie.
Michael Moeller has done an excellent job in directing this thought-provoking show. I love that the actors move their own set pieces, including a large ladder that has an elevated platform that is used in several different ways in several different scenes.
Moeller has chosen a simplified set, both modern and elegant, with a white and black painted floor that allows a fluidity in the pacing of the play and sense that, as the actors create their own physical spaces, they are also unknowingly creating their own emotional, unseen but very real, spaces as well. The excellent choreographed stage movement is the work of both director and actor. Kudos to both.
There is one choice that Moeller made that I would have done differently. In the song, “Nobody Needs to Know,” Jamie is conflicted about his marriage. It is morning and he is in bed just waking up, but the setting in this production is in bright light on a raised platform on a ladder, contrary to being in a dark bedroom early in the morning.
In other productions, as he is waking up in the morning, thinking about those problems that he has been uncomfortable with, the darker lighting represents the true physical and emotional place he is in.
Nevertheless, Weigand does knock the song out of the park and wrings out every tumultuous feeling that is going on in Jamie.
The movie starring Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick, vocally pales in comparison to Weigand and Fischer. For example, bring up Jordan singing “Shiksa Goddess” from the show on the internet and then remember Weigand. Weigand is superior, as is Fischer when comparing. If you liked the movie, you will love this production.
If you attend in person, everything is being done in accordance with CDC COVID guidelines. The theater is sanitized daily. The air is filtered by a HVAC air scrubber system. I attended the live performance, and it was great. I wore a mask and individual parties are separated by six feet.
You can also see this exceptional show virtually by going to musicmountaintheatre.org. The show runs until May 16.