Going back to the past – The Last 5 Years

Chick flicks and all the romantic movies become so ordinary. At times, a bit of artistry and deep thought performances become the medium to understanding what is seen as too common. Theater has always made this possible. And as I embark on my niche in writing, I am slowly seeing the essence in theater. Again, theater will always be something the love that I cannot replace.

The Last 5 Years has finally come putting up a good show at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, RCBC, Makati this August!

A two-character off-Broadway musical, a work and composition of Jason Robert Brown, The Last 5 Years was more than a spectacle. It was a refreshing look back to a love that had its anxiously exciting beginning to a hurting end.

Produced by Santi Santamaria and directed by Robbie Guevarra, The Last 5 Years was a different performance all in all because it was thought by a team that never settled for the blank canvass, but pushed for the non-conventional and creative.

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Production, theater, the piece

One feature of the musical was the nostalgic projections of memories as the scenes went back and forth on stage. This was the first time a production of the same piece was done with such feature, and it was effective in scenes where emphasis was made on the feeling and mood.

Interestingly, the piece was a convergence of looking back and moving forward. Jamie Wellerstein as played by Joaquin Valdes starts from the beginning of the story moving forward to the present. Cathy Hyatt played by Nikki Gil opens the show from the present going back to the very beginning of the story. Probably this can be interpreted that men tend to move along and start ahead, while women, though they may handle their being emotional well, have the tendency to go back and remember the past quite well as they live in the present. There were merging points in the musical wherein the characters’ romantic scenes emerge, and this was simply genius!

 

The contemporary and upbeat music and the refined singing made it clear and well represented in consistency with the story, the mood, and the characters.

Joaquin Valdes has a smooth, yet strong presence, with a prominent voice. He was indeed convincing. He kept pushing the character. Jamie’s character was well dressed in Joaquin’s characterization and interpretation.

Nikki Gil was a surprise in the musical arena with all honesty. Though she may have done some singing stints in show business, the musical artistry is just not what the public typically sees in her. She was actually great with her clarity in singing. Her stage presence was natural. Her voice was beyond the variety show spectacle.

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The stage architecture had its postmodern feel. There was a feel of abstraction verging into what is real. The angular dimensions were set in design so as to give a sense that the real story has its different sides and views from different people.

The musical piece was hazy and seemingly unpredictable in the beginning. With the interplay of looking back and moving forward, it may be a little confusing to the audience who may be anticipating for the apparent and typical. But everything made total sense because it was something dug from within. There was a sense of dimensionality in the scenes. And every scene was bound on a particular emotion, which the audience can feel in the music, the singing, and movement of the actors. The crisscrossing of time, memories, pains, joys, and the merging points make the musical something beyond the ordinary. The piece got rid of the jazzed-up interpretation of reality because once and for all, this same reality should be presented in essence, in its truest value. The musical is a bridge to what is true, real, and internal.


Lessons on love

Both Joaquin and Nikki brought their own stories and experiences into the musical. It made it easier for them to play the characters, to show the realness in the characters. To Nikki, the experience was different from the usual plays and acting stints because a part of her is in it. Joaquin speaks of his own story. He allowed himself not to act, but to become the character that is Jamie.

 

To both actors, there will always be good in things no matter what. Some stories of love, of a seemingly forever-lasting love may end in shambles making it impossible to reach a particular end of moving on and getting back to one’s feet. But there will always be that “light at the end of the tunnel,” as Nikki had put it. Joaquin resounds what a good guy would do – never replace a love that is true, worth fight for, and founded on more established lines of emotions.

Themes on love, be it in music, television, or even the theater, may be something clichéd. It may be the same story of leaving, coming back, and leaving forever. But just by looking back, one can assess oneself so as to set foot on a better future be it with someone that is his or her “forever” or with just the singular life that is worth every discovery and exploration of more uncharted life events. By going back, one can reaffirm that everything is going to be alright – way better even because one deserves a better morning to wake up to, a better day to live, to discover, and probably to love again.

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A painful reality shows it that at some point, couples fall out of love. Time, commitment, the willingness to compromise, and the ecstasy to be with the other may just fade along the way. But, love is brought in life as a matter of choice, something that an individual can establish, work on when everything goes wrong, and rekindle if there is the desire to do so. But the sad part is that it’s also a choice to just let it go because it needs to be let go. It may be too painful to stay in the situation even if that love is just there. Here, love becomes the reason to move on, to live a better life, to find something better, and to realize.

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Last thoughts on the Last 5 Years

The audience may see this off-Broadway musical piece differently. But it speaks of the same theme, the same story, and the same characterization. Seeing these performances on stage is somehow new to the general audience, but the fine production, the music, the singing, and the exceptional story lines make not only a show, but a refined presentation of what is real and true.

Another interesting and outstanding piece to look forward in the musical theater this August! Hats-off to 9 Work Theatrical!!

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