The Real Story Behind ‘The Last Five Years’


Ever wondered what inspires a story or script that becomes a sensation? The Last Five Years has taken the musical theatre scene by storm since 2001, and this show? This is a show packed with powerful lyrics and intimate looks into what built, and ultimately broke, a five year relationship between two people.

Where did Jason Robert Brown, the writer and composer, find the inspiration? Keep reading to find out more.

Inspired by creator Jason Robert Brown’s own failed marriage to actress Theresa O’Neill, The Last Five Years was conceived and written as the composer traveled the country with the national tour of his earlier musical Parade. After its 2001 Chicago premiere, O’Neill sued Brown, claiming that the show was too similar to their actual relationship and violated the terms of their divorce.

Writer and composer Jason Robert Brown.

Writer and composer Jason Robert Brown.

Starring Lauren Kennedy as Cathy and Norbert Leo Butz as Jamie, the show meanwhile garnered rave reviews and high attendance during its two-month run in Chicago, even being named by Time Magazine as one of the top 10 musicals of 2001. To appease O’Neill, Brown made some edits to differentiate the role of Cathy from his own ex-wife (notably, the song “I Could Be in Love with Someone Like You” was replaced by “Shiksa Goddess”) before the show began its next run.

The Last Five Years opened Off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre, starring Butz and Sherie Rene Scott (Kennedy had had a prior commitment; thus it is Scott who sang the cast recording). That year, it won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics; it was also nominated for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Actor and Actress, Outstanding Orchestrations, and Outstanding Set Design.

Since then, it has gone on to be produced in regional theaters across America and in six other countries, and has been translated into Dutch, German, Italian, and Japanese. An Off-Broadway revival, directed by Brown himself, ran briefly in 2013. There is also a 2014 film adaptation of The Last Five Years, starring Anna Kendrick as Cathy and Jeremy Jordan as Jamie.

Photo: Three Irish Girls Photography

Photo: Three Irish Girls Photography


What: That Last Five Years
Where: The Underground (506 W. Michigan St | Entrance on east end of Depot building)
When: January 28 – February 6 | Thursday-Saturday @ 7:30pm
Tickets: Purchase online, call 218.733.7555, or stop by in-person (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm)
Price: Adults – $18, Students – $15

Further information about The Last Five Years can be found at


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