PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Jason Robert Brown, Now Directing His Beloved Musical The Last Five Years

By Brandon Voss
07 Mar 2013

Jason Robert Brown
Jason Robert Brown

Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown (Parade) talks about seeing his cult hit The Last Five Years from both sides now — as songwriter and director of the new Off-Broadway revival.


Few musicals are as fanatically adored as Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years. Using opposing chronology to retrace the ill-fated relationship of a New York couple — purportedly inspired by the Tony Award-winning composer's own marriage woes and later divorce — the two-hander is getting another chance this spring at Off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre. The Mystery of Edwin Drood's Betsy Wolfe and Rent's Adam Kantor star as Cathy and Jamie, the roles immortalized by Sherie Rene Scott and Norbert Leo Butz on the popular 2002 original Off-Broadway cast recording. (It was recently reported that Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan will star in a forthcoming film adaptation.) Brown, who also directs the revival, looks at the last 11 years of his show's cult success.

Are you as excited as your fans are about this revival of The Last Five Years?
Jason Robert Brown: I'm probably more excited, because I know how awesome it's going to be.

Why did you want to direct it yourself?
JRB: It wasn't my idea, initially. A producer wanted to produce a revival on Broadway if I directed it, because he knew I had a very specific take on the show. After years trying to pull together a Broadway production with the casting nonsense required, I finally decided I didn't want to wait for an Anne Hathaway and a Jake Gyllenhaal, so I came to Second Stage. This is a show that many people love, but almost none have actually seen — at least not with my vision and the kind of amazing cast you can find in New York. It was time.

You conducted the orchestra of the original Off-Broadway production. Did you consider that for the revival?
JRB: Oh, God, no. I had to draw the line someplace. I've got an incredible piano player, Andrew Resnick, and Tom Murray, who was the music director 10 years ago, is music-directing again now. I've been very relieved not to have to touch the piano.

Being in the orchestra every night, you were obviously very close to that original production, which was directed by Daisy Prince. Have you found yourself borrowing any of her directorial choices?
JRB: Well, the design that Derek McLane has come up with is very different than Beowulf Boritt's design from the original production, so already there's a lot that's different visually. And these two actors, Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe, are so different and bring so much of their own lives to it, so there isn't a whole lot for me to borrow from what Daisy did. Everything Daisy did was great, but she got to do it, and now this will be mine.


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