From Stage to Screen: “The Last Five Years”

Hannah Keefer

I'm a freelance writer, storytelling enthusiast, and aspiring high school drama teacher. I watch all the movies I can.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. I am definitely in the camp of thinking it works to have the actors there to give their reactions. Granted, I did not see the original show, so I have nothing to compare it with. But I think it’s incredible, for example, in the final song, to see five years ago Jamie leaving smitten Cathy, and to be able to see the kind of flippant way he wishes her goodbye. In the context of that moment, it was kind of just a boy being a boy, and not trying to overplay his hand. But since we know various things he has done to be insufficiently supportive of her and there for her, the gesture takes on a new and tragic meaning to us. The stage version you describe sounds very stark, but the film version I fell in love with feels all the better for being populated by other characters and a bright and bustling world.

    Just curious — with songs like “Nobody Needs to Know,” were there other actresses on the stage then, or only Jamie?

    • I think both have their merits, but the joy of seeing different productions is that each one brings out something new and contributes to my understanding of the story as a whole. Watching the movie with other people on stage really brings home the relationship between the two and grounds it in a different way. I honestly never quite got what “The Schmuel Song” was doing in the show until I watched this.

      I’m sure that last one varies a little from show to show, but the versions I’ve seen had just Jamie singing on or near the bed where the other woman is supposedly sleeping (though there is not actually anyone on stage). Incidentally, the idea that he’s cheating on her with multiple women is a movie invention. It works, but it took me aback at first. The less linear movie setting of that song also changes one line in an interesting way — IIRC, on the line, “Come back to bed, kid, take me inside you, I promise I won’t lie to you” he is in the movie singing to Cathy. In the stage show, he’s singing it to the woman he just slept with. For me, that changes things — as he sings that line to this new woman, it’s as if he’s trying to say (to her and to himself), “This time it can be different, I can start over and everything will be better, and I won’t lie to you, I know I’m lying to Cathy now but that’s different.”