Director Richard LaGravenese didn’t make The Last Five Years for the general audience; he made it for the obsessives and the worshippers of Jason Robert Brown’s Off-Broadway musical, whom LaGravenese calls “the tribe.”
“I didn’t go into this trying to please a 100-million-dollar marketplace — I don’t care,” LaGravenese told The Hollywood Reporter. “I made it for a responsible budget, and I know if the musical theater tribe comes out for it, we’ll be fine. Nowadays, that’s the only way you can see things that are different and fresh — instead of having to appeal to a massive audience.”
And LaGravanese left a lot of fun nods to theater insiders throughout the film. Although it’s largely a two person story — Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan plays lovers from the beginning of a relationship to the break-up — many key players from the piece’s history and from the creative team pop up in the background. Try to spot them all when you’re watching the film, now in limited theaters and on demand:
Jason Robert Brown
“Why does this pianist hate me?” Cathy in “Climbing Uphill.” Look closely, that’s composer Brown, giving a hilariously convincing performance as a bad piano player. “He did all of that himself,” LaGravenese says of Brown looking closely at the sheet music. “ I cracked up behind the camera. He killed me.”
, and if you want a little more honesty and romance, you come see us.” “]
Jordan’s wife, who is a Broadway star in her own right having starred in Hairspray, Grease, and Rock of Ages, plays the receptionist at Random House and then appears again in “Nobody Needs to Know” as a woman Jamie (spoiler alert!) gets involved with. “I got to cheat on my wife with my wife,” Jordan quipped at the film’s New York premiere.
The Broadway actress played Cathy in the 2013 Off-Broadway production, directed by Brown, but in the film, she plays a snake-loving former stripper at an Ohio summer stock theater. (LaGravenese says he definitely knew immediately where he was going to put Wolfe in the film.) Wolfe shines as a neon-pink lingerie clad actress who shoves her snake in Kendrick’s face.
Everybody’s wife is in the film! Brown’s wife and fellow composer Stitt pops up as the pianist at the Ohio summer theater. Stitt also served as the music supervisor on the film.
It’s always nice to see a friendly face at an audition, and when Cathy sings “When You Come Home to Me,” one of the people on the other side of the table is film and record producer Deutsch. Deutsch co-founded Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, which produced the original Off-Broadway cast recording of The Last Five Years and also serves as a producer on the film.
Sherie Rene Scott
It’s the original Cathy Hiatt! Scott, who played Cathy at the Minetta Lane in 2002, is also a co-founder of Sh-K-Boom with Deutsch and is a TK producer on the film. LaGravenese knew he wanted Scott to be in the “positive audition” (Cathy has a less-than-positive one also), and he also wanted to include Norbert Leo Butz, who played Jamie in 2002, but Butz’s schedule didn’t work out.
The director even found a way to sneak himself into the film, but blink and you’ll miss him. As Jamie is running around New York City in “Moving Too Fast,” he stops to get a suit tailored. Well, that tailor is none other than LaGravenese. Thanks to the three-way mirror, you can spot him thrice.
This Broadway veteran sits on the other side of the table during Cathy’s bad audition in “Climbing Uphill,” the same one Brown is the pianist for. Oscar has appeared in many shows, including The Producers, Spamalot, and The Addams Family, and he will be seen in the upcoming Something Rotten on Broadway.
Broadway Chorus Boys
Many of the dancers in Cathy’s summer stock show in Ohio are Broadway ensemble members in their own right. Although the choreography (Michelle Lynch did the choreography) in the film is exaggerated on purpose, these dancers can nail a time step on the Great White Way any day.