The Last Five Years

Rated 4.0

He’s a rising young novelist, swiftly climbing the ladder to literary fame in New York City. She’s an actress, whose career is stalling in obscure Ohio towns. The arc of their relationship structures this intimate 90-minute musical.

The novelty stems partly from the way the story’s told. He starts with their first meeting and moves forward; she begins with their breakup, and tells her side in reverse. They meet in the middle, synchronized for the wedding.

More novelty: This show about a straight couple is staged by Lambda Players (Sacramento’s gay/lesbian theater). Perhaps the fact that it’s a musical is enough (like, aren’t musicals inherently gay?). Or maybe Lambda is branching out. The show is pleasing, in either case.

Lambda’s production isn’t quite as slick as the B Street Theatre’s 2006 staging, which featured two estimable professional singers. (Last time we checked, one member of the B Street cast, Jessica Rush, had a role in the Broadway revival of Gypsy, starring Patti LuPone.)

But Lambda’s community performers actually do pretty well. Claire McKnight’s a good singer (and connects with her character’s blues when she’s singing opposite a little person in a show and sharing an apartment with a former stripper who keeps a pet snake). Chris Plank’s a strong actor, with a knack for storytelling (and his voice is decent, even if he tends to talk his way through songs at times). Graham Sobelman provides poised piano accompaniment.

The show is virtually sung through, without intermission, and you go home humming the appealing songs by Jason Robert Brown, which won 2002 Drama Desk Awards for music and lyrics after the New York run. Some critics have compared this show to a concept album placed onstage, but in this production, director Sarah Price brings sufficient stage presence to anchor the project.