The Last Five Years is a one act musical written by Jason Robert Brown and produced off-Broadway in March of 2002. It explores the five-year relationship between Jamie, a rising novelist, and Cathy, a struggling actress. The show uses an unorthodox form of storytelling, with Cathy traveling backwards in time (beginning the show at the end of the marriage) and Jamie traveling forwards (starting with their first date). The songs are presented as soliloquies, except for a wedding song in the middle, where the two characters share a duet. Sometimes, this show is performed in such a way that Jamie and Cathy only interact during their wedding.
The musical begins with Cathy sitting alone in her apartment, lamenting the end of her marriage to Jamie, who has just moved out ("Still Hurting"). As she finishes her song, Jamie appears. It is five years earlier and he is on their first date. We learn that Jamie is Jewish and Cathy is not. Though Jamie claims that "the JCC of Spring Valley is shaking and crumbling to the ground," he is completely smitten with her ("Shiksa Goddess"), since he feels as though he has already met every single Jewish girl in New York.
The scene then switches to Cathy sitting on a pier in Ohio with Jamie, who has come to visit her for her birthday while she does summer stock theatre ("See I'm Smiling"). It is clear that she is not happy about spending her time away from Jamie and is enthusiastic about fixing their marriage. She becomes very angry when Jamie announces that he has to return to New York. They argue, and Cathy accuses Jamie of adultery. She claims that he spends all of his time thinking only of "you and you and nothing but you." During interludes in the music, Jamie, several years earlier, talks to a literary agent about the book he has just written. His future looks promising.
When Cathy finishes her rant, Jamie tells a friend that he is moving in with Cathy. Everything seems to be going right for him; his book is being published and the Atlantic Monthly is printing the first chapter. However, even though he is thrilled with his work and with his relationship with Cathy, he can't help but worry ("Moving Too Fast"). Cathy, meanwhile, is making calls to her agent. Though we only hear her side of the conversation, it is obvious that she is struggling with her career.
Cathy sits at Jamie's book signing party. She sings about her life with him, asserting that even though he often obsesses over his writing and ignores her, she is terribly in love with him ("A Part of That"). Cathy confesses that she does not act independently anymore, but instead follows in his footsteps.
Jamie, back in the past, is celebrating his second Christmas with Cathy. He tells her a fable about an old tailor named Schmuel who has an encounter one night in his shop with a magical clock. He points out parallels between Schmuel and Cathy, encouraging her to take some initiative with her acting. He then presents Cathy with her Christmas present—a watch ("The Schmuel Song").
Cathy sits in Ohio and writes a letter to Jamie. They have just been married and she is missing him dreadfully. She tells Jamie that she is going crazy in Ohio among her eccentric cast members, tortured by life without him ("A Summer in Ohio").
In the next scene, Jamie is sitting with Cathy in a boat on the lake in Central Park. He is with Cathy and they are looking at apartment buildings. He proposes. Cathy enters, the first time they have shared the stage. She is wearing a wedding dress. He presents her with the engagement ring and, for the first and only time in the musical, they sing together ("The Next Ten Minutes"). They exchange vows and rings, promising to stay together "for the next ten lifetimes." According to the stage direction, "they kiss, each holding on for as long as possible, as if perhaps they knew they didn't have long to go."  They share a tender moment, and then Jamie escorts Cathy to the rowboat, where she has the other side of the conversation that Jamie had before the music started. Jamie watches her go.
The newlywed Jamie is facing some temptation issues. He feels like his is constantly bombarded by attractive women, especially since his writing career has taken off ("A Miracle Would Happen"). Cathy, meanwhile, embarks on a series of auditions for the job in Ohio ("When You Come Home to Me"). She is frustrated with the audition process and discusses her sense of inadequacy with her father ("Climbing Uphill").
Jamie, on the phone with Cathy, does his level best to convince his wife that his editor, Elise, is just a colleague. Cathy, apparently, doesn't buy it. Jamie wants to celebrate a book review by John Updike in the New Yorker, but Cathy isn't in the mood to go out. She sings passionately about her desire to be independent, refusing to "trot along at the genius's heels."
Jamie is reading an excerpt of his book, Light out of Darkness. It is obviously about his relationship with Cathy, a very sweet story that nonetheless foreshadows the ultimate demise of their marriage. In the next scene, Jamie is fighting passionately with Cathy. It is toward the end of their relationship and he is trying desperately to just get her to listen to him. He wonders aloud if they will ever get to the point where things are easy, where there aren't so many obstacles facing their marriage. He calls her out on being unsupportive of his career just because hers is failing. Though his words are harsh, he promises her that he believes in her unconditionally, and that if he didn't, he wouldn't love her ("If I Didn't Believe in You").
Now reaching the beginning of their relationship, Cathy is driving Jamie to her parents' house ("I Can Do Better Than That"). She tells him about her past, including her best friend who got pregnant in high school and a guy who broke up with her in a letter. She tells Jamie that he doesn't have to change anything, he just has to stay with her. She excitedly tells him that she wants nothing more than "you and you and nothing but you" and asks him to move in with her.
Jamie wakes up in the apartment. He is not alone. Cathy is in Ohio, and Jamie is with a woman (presumably his editor, Elise) in their house ("Nobody Needs to Know"). He tries to defend his actions and blames Cathy for destroying his privacy and their "perfectly balanced" relationship. Jamie promises not to lie to this woman and tells her, just as he told Cathy in "Shiksa Goddess," that "I could be in love with someone like you."
Cathy is at the end of her first date with Jamie. She is giddy as she sings, saying goodbye to him ("Goodbye Until Tomorrow"). She proclaims that she has been waiting for Jamie her whole life and is ready for this romance. Jamie appears, writing a farewell note to Cathy in their apartment, telling her that he couldn't be the knight in shining armor she expected him to be ("I Could Never Rescue You"). Their vocals are harmonized, and the music ends with them saying goodbye. Cathy will wait for his phone call, Jamie says his final goodbye.
Critics have praised the music as creative and groundbreaking. The characters' introspective lyrics evoke the work of Stephen Sondheim. The musical style draws from pop, jazz, and classical. Brown also incorporates other musical genres, including klezmer, Rock and Folk. The orchestration consists of piano, guitar, bass, two cellos, and a violin.
The songs, in order, are:
Original Chicago Production
The show debuted at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois in 2001. The production starred Lauren Kennedy as Kathleen and Norbert Leo Butz as Jamie. However, a legal dispute arose when Brown's ex-wife complained that the show too closely resembled their own failed relationship. Brown made several changes for the off-Broadway production, mostly to Kathleen's character:
Original Off-Broadway Production
The original New York off-Broadway production starred Sherie Rene Scott as Cathy (Kennedy had another commitment) and Norbert Leo Butz as Jamie. It was directed by Daisy Prince and opened to mixed reviews on March 3, 2002 at the Minetta Lane Theatre.
Original German Production
The original German-language production premiered in Wuppertal, Germany on June 18, 2005 at the Rex-Theater.
Original London Production
The original London production at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre, running from the 18th July running till the 30th September 2006.
London Cast: Jamie is played by Damian Humbley and Cathy by Lara Pulver.
Original Greek Production
The original Greek production premiered in June 2006 at the Amerikaniko Kollegio, Athens. Musical Director Nassos Sopilis, Director Stratos Sopilis, Vocal Coaching/piano Matheson Bayley  and dance and movement Cindi Trent.