The Last Five Years
This modern musical ingeniously chronicles the five-year life of a marriage, from meeting to break-up and from break-up to meeting.
Show Essentials

Full Synopsis

Cathy and Jamie's relationship has lasted five years. As the story begins, Cathy is at the end of the relationship while Jamie is at the beginning. With inter-cutting scenes, we watch Jamie move forward in time as Cathy moves backward ("Still Hurting").

Cathy has just found a note from her husband, Jamie, signifying the end of their marriage. While she still struggles with their break-up, she feels that he has easily moved on without her.

Five years prior, Jamie has just met Cathy. He is soaring from the high of it. He recounts his past relationships, feeling as if he's been waiting for her all of his life ("Shiksa Goddess").

Cathy (moving backwards) is hopeful for the healing of their marriage. Jamie has come to meet her in Ohio, where she has been working as a performer ("See I'm Smiling"). She believes that he will see her show and they will be able to spend time together. Although it's her birthday, she is let down when he has to leave earlier than expected for a party back home.

After their first date, Jamie has made a phone call to a potential literary agent – a contact made through his college professor. Unbelievably, this agent seems interested in his work. He is 23 years old. Soon his career begins to soar, and Jamie decides that he wants to move in with Cathy. His life is moving at top speed, but no matter; he's living the way that he wants ("Moving Too Fast").

Catherine's career is struggling. She's been turned down by a theatrical agent. As she waits patiently during a book signing of Jamie's, someone asks her what it's like to be married to a famous author. She expresses how she rides out his manic writing spells, where he completely shuts her out emotionally, then suddenly lets her back in ("I'm a Part of That").

It's their second Christmas together, and Jamie reads a story he wrote for her ("The Schmuel Song"). It is intended to inspire her to go out and pursue her dreams of becoming an actress. He tells her to quit her day job and go and be happy. He also tells her how lucky he is to be in love with her.

Cathy has gotten a summer stock job in Ohio. The situation is less than desirable, but she's trying to make the most of it. Meanwhile, Jamie is back in New York, his latest book a bestseller. Cathy writes a letter to Jamie as she anxiously awaits his visit ("A Summer in Ohio").

Jamie is alone, prepping himself to propose to Cathy. She appears in her wedding dress and meets him at the altar. Physically together for the first time during this show, they exchange vows and promises of an undying love ("The Next Ten Minutes").

Jamie, now married, begins to feel the temptation and attraction of other women whom he meets at parties. His success has made him the center of attention and, though he feels the pull, he loves Cathy and believes his marriage will remain strong ("A Miracle Would Happen"). He calls Cathy, who is out of town working, and promises to meet her as soon as he can escape his publisher. Cathy has just auditioned for and gotten another job ("When You Come Home to Me").

Cathy shares with her father the stress and difficulty of daily auditioning and daily rejection ("Climbing Uphill"). At another audition, she flounders as a million different things about her life with Jamie race through her head. She is determined, however, to have her own career and not live in the shadow of her now-famous husband. Jamie is doing a reading at a bookstore. The passage he reads is a metaphor for Cathy's drive and the feeling of his isolation from her.

Jamie is in the middle of a fight with Cathy. He has just gotten a book published and wants her to go to the party the publisher is throwing for him. She refuses. He doesn't feel supported by her and does not understand why she is angry ("If I Didn't Believe in You").

Cathy is driving Jamie to meet her parents. She is happy and excited, talking about her disappointments of the past in contrast to her bright future with him ("I Can Do Better Than That").

Jamie wakes up beside another woman. He knows that he must go see Cathy in Ohio. Fighting panic and a feeling of inevitability, he admits to the other woman that he has fallen in love with her ("Nobody Needs to Know").

Cathy floats on air at the end of her first date with Jamie. They have shared their first kiss, and she wants the magical moment to last forever. She bids him goodbye until tomorrow. At the same time, Jamie ends their relationship. He simply bids her goodbye.

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Cast Size: Small (Up to 10 performers)
Cast Type: Star Vehicle Female
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

Catherine Hiatt
Character arcs from an ambitious, fresh-faced girl in a new relationship to a woman stunned by a betrayal and a divorce that she is only beginning to understand.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: D#5
Vocal range bottom: F3
Jamie Wellerstein
Character arcs from an ambitious guy on a promising first date with a dazzling career to someone who is blinded by success and ego. He is very lovable, yet makes unintentional choices that sabotages his own happiness.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: Bb4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Full Song List
The Last Five Years: Still Hurting
The Last Five Years: Shiksa Goddess
The Last Five Years: See I'm Smiling
The Last Five Years: Moving Too Fast
The Last Five Years: A Part of That
The Last Five Years: The Schmuel Song
The Last Five Years: A Summer in Ohio
The Last Five Years: The Next Ten Minutes
The Last Five Years: Climbing Uphill
The Last Five Years: If I Didn't Believe in You
The Last Five Years: I Can Do Better Than That
The Last Five Years: Nobody Needs to Know
The Last Five Years: Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You

Show History


The Last Five Years was written during the two years that Jason Robert Brown toured the country as conductor and musical director of the national tour of another one of his shows, Parade. Distraught with the state of musical theatre style at the time, he wanted to create an emotionally intimate, musically complex piece. Brown's musical style, although it only uses a select number of instruments, draws on a significant number of genres, from classical to rock to klezmer.


The Last Five Years, a sung-through musical written by Jason Robert Brown, premiered at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois, in 2001. The production ran for two months and starred Lauren Kennedy and Norbert Leo Butz. The show reportedly sold more tickets in a single weekend than any other production at that theatre before.

With new producers, the musical later opened at the Minetta Lane Theatre Off-Broadway on March 3, 2002, closing on May 5 of the same year. Sherie Rene Scott stepped in to star opposite Butz, as Kennedy had taken off for a prior commitment. Since its closing, The Last Five Years has been produced across hundreds of American cities, in addition to Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, France and the Philippines. The musical's regional popularity spurned an Off-Broadway revival at the Second Stage Theatre in 2013. It was directed by Jason Robert Brown, himself.

Cultural Influence

  • The Last Five Years has been translated into a handful of other languages, including Dutch, Japanese, German and Italian.
  • The musical was named one of TIME Magazine's top ten shows of 2001.
  • A film adaptation of the stage musical was released in 2014, starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.

Critical Reaction

"Brimming with persistent melodies, throughout lyrics and a heartfelt, compelling story."
– Associated Press

"[Jason Robert Brown] turns a modest, 80-minute, two-character musical into a richly satisfying emotional journey."
– TIME Magazine

"I can't think of any better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than by spending 90 exhilarating minutes with The Last Five Years, Jason Robert Brown's giddily sorrowful eulogy for a brief marriage."
– Bloomberg News

"It's instantly clear... that this poignant, richly dramatic and piercingly honest two-character show is destined to be a hit."
– The Chicago Sun-Times

"Jaw-dropping!  A gem of a show from Jason Robert Brown."
– New York Magazine

Drama Desk Award

2002 - Outstanding Actor in a Musical:, Nominee (Norbert Leo Butz )
2002 - Outstanding Actress in a Musical:, Nominee (Sherie Rene Scott )
2002 - Outstanding Lyrics:, Winner (Jason Robert Brown )
2002 - Outstanding Music:, Winner (Jason Robert Brown )
2002 - Outstanding Musical:, Nominee ()
2002 - Outstanding Orchestrations:, Nominee (Jason Robert Brown )
2002 - Outstanding Set Design of a Musical:, Nominee (Beowulf Boritt )




You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
Written and Composed by
Originally Produced for the New York stage by
Arielle Tepper and Marty Bell
Originally Produced by Northlight Theatre
Chicago, IL

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