The Last Five Years

One of the worst things about Disney’s recent screen adaptation of Into the Woods is how it mangles a perfectly good Stephen Sondheim score. In the movie’s overblown orchestrations, too many instruments serve to reinforce the vocal melodies, drowning out Sondheim’s brilliant use of counterpoint and dissonance—much as Rob Marshall’s grandstanding direction papers over the unsettling narrative themes. By contrast, the movie version of The Last Five Years, Jason Robert Brown’s popular stage musical (which debuted at Northlight Theatre in 2001), derives much of its emotional force by preserving Brown’s minimal arrangements. Writer-director Richard LaGravenese expands upon the source material in other ways (chiefly by visualizing scenes that the characters can only describe onstage), but still he invokes the intimacy of a live production by keeping the music relatively unadorned. It’s a good thing he does, since Five Years is effectively a chamber drama. Continue reading >>