Up until now, Front Porch Theatricals has produced just three musicals (and two were co-productions.) This is its first year as a stand-alone troupe with an announced season.
Given such a minimal production history, I was in no way prepared for the unbelievably professional, absolutely top-drawer standard of Front Porch's first 2015 outing, Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last Five Years.
In almost every way that matters, this is a flawless evening. A newish company could be excused a less-than-perfect physical production; but Andrew David Ostrowski's lighting, Kim Brown's costumes and Scott P. Calhoon's set rival, if not surpass, any local show, and most tours, that I see.
The Last Five Years is Brown's fictionalized account of the breakup of his marriage. Its score is pop-rock-influenced and power-ballad-flavored, and its boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl plot is, um, unremarkable.
But while I don't like the plot, I do love Brown's plotting of it. The story of Jamie (the Boy) is told chronologically straightforward, while Cathy's runs in reverse; his first scene is after their first date, her first scene is her walking out of the marriage. They never appear together except when their stories meet in the middle — their wedding. It's a rather remarkable bit of playwriting and adds a considerable interest to the well-worn plot.
But even that plot seems exciting when Erin Lindsey Krom and David Toole are up on stage blasting this show into the sky. Quite simply, they are Cathy and Jamie, and it's amazing how deeply they make us care. And you haven't heard voices like this sing with such power and depth since ... well, since I don't know when.
Calhoon's direction is specific and deliberate, providing Krom and Toole with excellent support from start to finish. And if I haven't used up all my adjectives, let me shower what's left on musical director Deana Muro and her six-piece "orchestra" — the color, mood and emotional heft of this evening is due, in large part, to the talent of these musicians.
With this show, Front Porch Theatricals has leapt to the head of Pittsburgh's theatrical class.