review_life and times (episodes 1 – 4)

This is a lovely review and a very well deserved 4 out of 5 stars for Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s Life and Times: Episodes 1 to 4 marathon.

I absolutely loved being behind the scenes for this show, though crew participation was minimal, the changeovers between episodes were required to be fast and concise. Changing from the white backdrop of Ep 1, to the black backdrop of Ep 2 and clearing / resetting the orchestra pit was easy enough, however the shortest break (45mins between Ep2 and Ep3 & 4) had the most complex change over, with a whole new backdrop flown in to create a full scale Agatha Cristie murder mystery drawing room, complete with props and furniture! We all kept on our toes and all our changes ran smoothly and just bounced off the the fun, energy and downright endurance that this troupe of performers. Clocking in the final run time of almost exactly 10 hours,  this production was not only amusing and endearing as the story unfolds, but bloody impressive and inspiring.

Tribute to the Ugly Duckling in all of us. 

Doing justice to the vigour and complexity of Life and Times is an impossible task, and even describing its contours is difficult without making it sound a bit, well, insane. It’s certainly the most awkward masterpiece I’ve ever seen, but perhaps a tribute to the ugly duckling in all of us could only be awkward.

It’s also the opposite, of course. The occlusion of the storytelling becomes wonderfully eloquent in performance: through the grit and magnetism of the actors and the audacity and strength of the directorial conception it becomes a desperately funny and poignant odyssey into the ephemera of growing up.

– Cameron Woodhead, The Age

Life and Times: Episode 1

Life and Times: Episode 1


Life and Times: Episode 2

Life and Times: Episode 2


Life and Times: Episodes 3 & 4

Life and Times: Episodes 3 & 4

 

review_the last five years

After falling in love with Jason Robert Brown since my recent involvement in Oxagen’s production of Songs for a New World, I was thrilled to reunite with some of the Oxagen team to see Tall Trees rendition of the JRB cult favorite, The Last Five Years.

The idea of the show is simple enough – two young New Yorkers, Cathy (a struggling musical theatre actress) and Jamie (a bright new author on the verge of huge success) tell the story of their five-year long relationship. However the structure of the show alone was captivating – the stories are told in reverse, with Cathy starting from the devastating break up and working backwards through their story, and Jamie starting from the giddying excitement of their budding romance and moving forward through the fate we, the audience, already know will eventuate. The couple only meet once in the entire show – at their engagement – before spiraling off again on their own paths.

last52

Image courtesy of Tall Trees Productions.


last51

Image courtesy of Tall Trees Productions.

The cast of two, Angela Harding as Cathy and Luigi Lucente as Jamie were absolutely amazing, both completely captivating me with the heartbreaking juxtaposition of hopeful new love, and crushing despair at that love lost – and having to experience it not once, but twice as the stories diverge again.

Sharing the stage with them, almost as the third cast member, was a fantastic six-piece band led by MD Evan Englezos. JRB’s music absolutely blows me away with the incredible emotion and the story he tells within the music itself, and this show was no different. I was a little bit distracted at times by the lighting of the band, feeling it took away a little from the lighting on the action of Cathy / Jamie, but I understand with an intimate venue like Theatre Works placing the band at all was a tricky thing to stage, so in that case I think Tall Trees did well.

I loved the staging concept, with the story played out across Jamie and Cathy’s apartment – stacked with books and their love and life chronicled in photographs above the bed. I would have liked to have seen more made of the photographs – given the clever placement of black and white photos in the foyer prior to the show (instead of flyers or programs, which were available separately), I was disappointed that their only significance during the show was to have a couple taken down and put back up as the story evolved. I understand that the story, as with all of JRB’s musicals, is as much told in the lyrics and music as with any props or staging – but I’ve always been obsessed with the detail in the background (which is what drove me to stage tech’ing in the first place).

The lighting design was simple yet effective, with some great feature lighting in parts standing out. I particularly loved the deep blue wash over the stage as the couple danced to a tune you can’t quite place as either melancholy or romantic, plus a vibrant dynamic changing state as Jamie tells the fantastic story of the old tailor Schmuel, with the lights glowing as warm as the magical clock on Schmuel’s wall.

As Tall Trees’ first production, and my second foray into official JRB fandom, The Last Five Years was a stunning performance both technically and visually. I can’t wait to see what Tall Trees produces next!

For more information on Tall Trees, including to join their mailing list to keep up to date on upcoming productions, please visit their website here.