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By Laura Moore
Special to The PREVIEW
The Thingamajig Theatre Co. production of “The Last Five Years” is the final show in the summer series and showcases one of southwest Colorado’s finest musical theatre performers, Rachel Saul Pollack, and Thingamajig’s own Tim Moore.
Jason Robert Brown’s presumably autobiographical tale of a writer hitting the big time as his marriage disintegrates has much in common with both Jonathan Larson’s “tick tick … BOOM” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George.”
This is a chamber musical featuring only two performers, who, between them, get through a tremendous amount of work during the 90 minutes of the play. Moore (Jamie) and Pollack (Cathy) sing their hearts through a fast-paced, uniquely devised contemporary musical.
The storyline is simple, but the storytelling can be described as original. Jamie tells the story from the beginning of their relationship, while Cathy is recalling it from its conclusion.
Jamie is a Jewish novelist on the way up, first seen at 23 with the world fast becoming his oyster as an agent signs him up and sells his book, much to the admiration of Cathy.
She is a wannabe musical actress whose career has not got beyond the disastrous auditions and waiting table stage. Initially, their love is touching, culminating in a scene in which his marriage proposal in Central Park suddenly transforms into their wedding.
Over five years of marriage, career-wise their lives follow the paths that have already been set, his going from strength to strength and hers barely taking off. The strain that this puts on their relationship leads to heart ache on both sides and, in the end, to a separation that is likely to become permanent.
The evening peaks early as Pollack shows off a richly melodious and powerful voice while lamenting the end of what had seemed the perfect match, and Jamie’s first song “Shiksa Goddess” is a gem. It has pace, tremendous humor with every line funny, and pathos, as this Jewish boy yearns for a wife who will not be like all the Jewish girls that he has dated and been bored by.
Throughout, Cathy gets the downbeat reflective songs with bits of comedy coming in a witty auditions skit and reflections about Jamie during a book signing event, while Jamie gets the upbeat, rocky ballads and most of the best lines.
The music has been compared to Sondheim with good reason. Brown particularly concentrates on the piano, played at Thingamajig by a live ensemble — a mix of local and regional musicians – piano, cello, violin and guitar. This works well and complements the attractive voices of both performers.
“The Last Five Years” is one of those cult shows that hardcore musical fans have all heard of, but which is rarely performed due to its challenging score, and despite its small cast and limited technical requirements. Thingamajig has put together a talented cast of musicians and singers and you don’t want to miss it.
“The Last Five Years” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Sept. 30 at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. Show tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at www.pagosacenter.org or by calling 731-SHOW.