Theatre Review: The Last Five Years

Lionfish Productions is a startup organization headed by Diana Kaarina and Danny Balkwill, who are also the stars of Lionfish’s current production – The Last Five Years. A song cycle by Jason Robert Brown, The Last Five Years is a favourite among the musical theatre community, but hardly known anywhere else. While it doesn’t have the flashiness of a big stage, and consequently never went to Broadway, the music is beautiful, the lyrics clever, and the story well thought out.

The plot is a commonplace one: it follows a musical theatre actress, Cathy (Diana Kaarina) and a fiction writer, Jamie (Danny Balkwill) from their first time meeting to the end of their five year long relationship. The twist? Jamie tells his story in chronological order, but Cathy tells hers backwards, starting at the end of their marriage and progressing back to their first date. This unusual storytelling means that the audience’s emotions are constantly in flux, as they are tossed between the beginning of the story, with upbeat, comedic songs, and the more dramatic, heartfelt ending.

Kaarina and Balkwill each have impressive resumes which include Broadway productions and touring casts. The only downside for these experienced actors in this particular production is that they were clearly too old to play 23-28 year olds. One might forgive them for casting themselves in such young roles, because there are so few opportunities to do The Last Five Years. I applaud their ability to shrug off conventions in order to do what they love – for it was perfectly clear that they did.

With few breaks from singing strenuous, dynamic music, and an intermission-less 85 minute show, the quality of their voices was astonishing. Diana Kaarina’s belting voice sails like a dream, and Danny Balkwill’s singing was on par as well, but his acting took the performance to another level. His transition from the silly boy singing “Shmuel” at the beginning, to the chilling man writing his goodbye letter at the end, made the show into more than just a series of well written songs.

The set was interesting, using a picture frame to transition between time periods. Also, the six-piece orchestra was perfect for the song cycle – which is frequently done with a very condensed band.

Lionfish Productions’ The Last Five Years should be jumped upon by anyone who likes music, because you won’t be seeing it live in Vancouver again for a while. If you do miss this production, though, a movie version – starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan – opens in theatres this weekend. Lionfish certainly had good timing on that one.

The Last Five Years runs at the PAL Studio Theatre until February 14th. Tickets available online or at the door.

Related Posts

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/lotulag8/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-comment-query.php on line 405

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

Entangled: More Than Meets The Eye

The Vancouver Art Gallery’s current exhibition Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting explores two concurrent approaches to understanding the...

Review: Slowdive

In 1995, Slowdive released their third album, Pygmalion. Sparse, ambient, and even less commercial than the band’s previous work, the...

The Fight Against Displacement: An Interview With Chinatown Concern Group

Founded in 2013, the Chinatown Concern Group has been working with residents, many of whom are elderly and face language...

Objects in Motion: Seeing Northwest Coast Art In A Different Light

Kaayd hllngaay skaayxan (spruce-root basket) with Wasgo (Sea Wolf) imagery, c. 1890-1920; Woven by Skidegate Haida artist and painted by...

Review: Waxahatchee’s Latest Album Has Very Little ‘Storm’ to Speak Of

Katie Crutchfield, otherwise known as Waxahatchee, is a veteran of brooding, introspective lyricism. It’s her plaintive, emotion laid bare that garnered...


In my art school days my tutor, Pete Bowcott (who claimed to be the lovechild of performance art pioneer Joseph...

Seu Jorge presents: The Life Aquatic – A Tribute to David Bowie

A bespectacled man walks onto the stage in an opulent theatre. Standing in front of the rapt audience, he introduces...

Her Pity Party (But Also Mine)

When we were sixteen, Lorde and I existed in worlds too small for our souls. We were restless. We wasted...