“The Last Five Years” in Saigon
By Bradley Winterton in HCMC
This weekend sees three performances of the 2001 American musical The Last Five Years by the Dragonfly Theatre Company. It’s their second production following a spectacular The Importance of Being Earnest last year. I was lucky enough to be invited to the dress-rehearsal on Wednesday, and these are some of my impressions of that occasion.
The work tells the story of the ultimately sad love-affair between a man called Jamie and a girl called Cathy. It only has two actors, with accompaniment provided by a seven-piece orchestra comprising one pianist, two guitarists, and four string players. The musicians are positioned at one side, and the stage consists of a number of platforms with a bed, a settee, a desk, a park-bench, and so on.
An unusual feature of the musical is that whereas Jamie tells his story chronologically, Cathy tells hers backwards. Thus Jamie starts by the park bench on the audience’s left and gradually moves across to the bed on the far right, whereas Cathy starts on the bed (broken-hearted at the break-down of their marriage), and gradually moves across to the park bench (near which the lovers first meet).
Their vocal numbers more or less alternate, with few duets. Those there are occur at their marriage (naturally enough centre-stage) and at the very end of the evening.
Brian Riedlinger sang Jamie with great energy and commitment. Every word was clear and delivered with passion, albeit sometimes ironical. He also directed the show as a whole.
Vanessa Tantillo sang Cathy with a strong soprano voice, and if her words were not always as clear as Jamie’s, Vietnamese-speakers will have the advantage of a word-by-word translation into Vietnamese projected above the stage throughout.
The orchestra was ideally constituted for such a show, giving just enough support without being so loud as to drown the soloists. The vigorous pianist led the ensemble through some shaky early moments, no doubt the product of the rehearsal situation.
Performances are on Friday at 8 p.m., and on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are available from firstname.lastname@example.org at VND500,000 and VND350,000, with student seats available at VND100,000 on production of a Vietnam student card. The 5B Theatre is at 5B Vo Van Tan Street, District 3.