The Last Five Years

Date 16th May 2021
Society KW Productions
Venue Streaming on Stream Theatre 15th-23rd May
Type of Production Musical
Director Keiran Whelan-Newby
Producer Keiran Whelan-Newby


Author: Alex Wood, NODA E Mids Regional Editor

It’s been very quiet in the East Midlands over the last year. One exception was the well-received Heckington Players’ panto, filmed during last summer and now we have The Last Five Years, another streamed show, this time by KW Productions of Leicester.

The Last Five Years is a piece about a failed marriage, based on his own experience, by Jason Robert Brown. It is unusual in that one character, Cathy, starts the show with a song about the end of their relationship but Jamie's first song is about how their relationship began – the only crossover happens in the middle of the show where they duet in the beautifully poignant song (bearing in mind that by now we already know how their romance is going to end) ‘The Next Ten Minutes’.

With a cast of two this show seems perfect for streaming.

And in that regard, Danielle Sanders as Cathy Hiatt - an aspiring actress - and Keiran Whelan-Newby as Jamie Wellerstein - a young man who finds sudden fame and fortune with his first book - do not let us down. Both have fine voices and interpret the songs beautifully.

Reviewing a FILMED streamed show is a new experience – and a little scary if I’m honest. My knowledge of cinematography is limited but I’d like to make some comments about the film of the show which is used in the stream.

The filming was of a high quality, as was, in general, the sound – the short spoken parts weren’t as clear as I’d have liked. I enjoyed the use of phone camera footage and social media. The lip syncing by Danielle and Keiran is extremely good and this is complemented by shots of them singing in the sound studio – an excellent idea.

To me, the ‘feel’ of The Last Five Years is part very urban (the implication is that Jamie is a New Yorker -he sings about dropping out of Columbia University in 'Moving Too Fast') but also small town America (Cathy sings about her background in Ohio in ‘I Can Do Better Than That’) -it's a large cause for the tension in their relationship -but I did not get the feel of either in the provincial/rural settings used. The interiors and especially the ‘domestic scenes’ worked well. But, for example, I think Rutland Water was over-used. Maybe something could have been done with photographs.

Maybe it sounds unoriginal and lacking daring but I would have used a stage set – I think Covid conditions and the small cast/crew would have allowed for this – and back projection. The songs and the way they are sung are at the heart of this show.

I think I understand the reason for brief reference to the pandemic but it added little to my understanding of the show.

The Q & A was a very good, informative idea, especially for someone else thinking of doing this sort of streamed performance but –especially in its filmed format – it would have benefited from editing.

It would be remiss not to mention the superb production team of  Felix Surbe (Accompaniments), Timothy Neville of Black Owl (Sound Recording and Editing) and Gina Fernandes Photography (Professional Photography and Videography).

Finally, putting my criticisms aside, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Keiran, Danielle and their team for bringing this fine show to our homes in these still-dark times.It's well worth a look!