The Last Five Years chronicles the love story of Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein. What makes this musical unique is that the audience follows Cathy’s journey backwards from the end of the relationship to the beginning while we watch Jamie’s story unfold forward from the beginning of the relationship to the end. Since we are presenting this musical in the style of a concert, we are including the following synopsis to help you follow the separate timelines:
Cathy is sitting alone lamenting the end of her marriage ("Still Hurting"). We shift to meet Jamie. It is five years earlier and he has just met Cathy. Jamie is overjoyed to be dating outside his Jewish heritage ("Shiksa Goddess").
Cathy and Jamie are in Ohio. It is her birthday and he has come to visit her as she works in a show there ("See I'm Smiling"). She is anxious to fix any problems in their marriage but she becomes angry when Jamie tells her he has to go back early to New York. During breaks in the music, we see a younger Jamie, talking to a literary agent about his book.
Jamie is moving in with Cathy. He comments on how lucky he is that everything is going right for him; his book is being published and his life with Cathy seems too good to be true ("Moving Too Fast"). Elsewhere an older Cathy is making a call to her agent: it seems her career isn't going the way she planned it.
Cathy is attending Jamie's book party. She sings about how he ignores her for his writing but she will always be in love with him ("I'm a Part of That").
Jamie and Cathy celebrate their second Christmas. He tells her a new story he has written about an old tailor named Schmuel and he gives her a Christmas present: a watch, promising to support her as she follows her dreams of acting. ("The Schmuel Song").
Cathy is in Ohio and writing to Jamie. She describes to Jamie her disappointing life in Ohio among her eccentric colleagues ("A Summer in Ohio").
Jamie is sitting with Cathy in Central Park. Jamie proposes to her and, for the first time in the musical, they sing together because this is where their timelines intersect ("The Next Ten Minutes"). They get married, exchanging vows to stay together forever.
Jamie is facing temptation from other women, especially now his career as a writer has escalated ("A Miracle Would Happen"). Cathy, meanwhile, is auditioning for a role ("When You Come Home to Me"). She is getting down about the rejection she faces as an actress and complains to Jamie ("Climbing Uphill").
Jamie speaks to Cathy on the phone, trying to convince her that there is nothing going on with him and his editor, Elise. He wants to celebrate a book review but Cathy refuses to go out.
Jamie is fighting with Cathy, trying to get her to listen to him. He accuses her of being unsupportive of his career just because hers is failing. Though his words are harsh, he promises her that he believes in her ("If I Didn't Believe in You").
A younger Cathy is in the car with Jamie, who is going to meet her parents. She tells him about her past relationships and hopes not to end up in a small town life like her friend from high school ("I Can Do Better Than That"). She asks Jamie to move in with her.
Near the end of the relationship Jamie wakes up beside another woman ("Nobody Needs to Know"). He tries to defend his actions and blames Cathy for destroying his privacy and their relationship. Jamie promises not to lie to this woman and tells her that "I could be in love with someone like you," just as he does to Cathy in "Shiksa Goddess."
Cathy is ecstatic after her first date with Jamie. She sings goodbye ("Goodbye Until Tomorrow"). She proclaims that she has been waiting for Jamie her whole life. Simultaneously but five years forward, Jamie sits in their shared apartment writing laments over the relationship ("I Could Never Rescue You"). As Cathy, now at the beginning of their relationship, expectantly waves "goodbye until tomorrow" to Jamie after their first date, he wishes Cathy simply "goodbye" to mark the end of their story together.