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‘The Last Five Years’

From first date to final goodbye, Jason Robert Brown chronicles the emotional highs and lows of a young couple’s failed marriage in the award winning musical “The Last Five Years,” now playing at Shirlington’s Signature Theatre.

Reminiscent of the 2001 film “Memento,” “The Last Five Years” tells the anguished tale of rising novelist Jamie and struggling actress Cathy in a dual narrative of their five-year relationship — Jamie from the hopeful moment they first meet and Cathy in retrospect from their heartbreaking final goodbye.

Signature favorite James Gardiner is Jamie, a 20-something novelist whose success comes early while his wife Cathy, played by Erin Weaver, is still struggling in her career.

Gardiner gives a masterful performance and is especially electrifying in "A Miracle Would Happen," about Jamie’s attempts to remain faithful as literary groupies throw themselves at him. His comic talents come to life in “The Schmuel Song,” which brings the house down.

Weaver, a Helen Hayes award nominee for her leading role as Clio/Kira in last summer’s production of “Xanadu,” gives a tender performance of the heartbroken one left behind.

Weaver is captivating with strong vocals and a comic wit that shines through on songs like “Climbing Uphill,” a song about Cathy’s ordeal during a summer stock audition.

Together, Gardiner and Weaver are a magical duo and two of the finest musical theater talents ever to take to the stage. Their finale, "Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You," brings the achingly poignant tale to an end and the audience to its feet.

Brown, the Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist of the 1998 musical "Parade," structures the play as a series of 14 alternating solos by Jamie and Cathy, whose tales intersect only briefly when they exchange wedding vows mid-show. He displays an eclectic variety of musical styles, including jazz, classical, folk and rock in the score that earned him Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics.

Cited as one of Time Magazine’s 10 Best of 2001, “The Last Five Years” is under the expert direction of Aaron Posner with scenic design by Daniel Conway, costumes by Kathleen Geldard and musical direction by William Yanesh.

The combination of Brown’s captivating original score and the brilliant performances of Gardiner and Weaver makes for a magical evening of unforgettable theater that is not to be missed.

“The Last Five Years” is playing now through April 28 at Shirlington’s Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. For tickets or more information, call 703-820-9771 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.

Signature is offering “$22 for Tuesdays,” making available a limited number of $22 tickets to the Tuesday, April 16 performance. A Pride performance is scheduled for April 19; Discussion performances are scheduled for April 17 and April 23.