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Jason Robert Brown’s musical operates like a sophisticated time machine – as Jamie’s story is told from beginning to end, while Cathy’s is told in reverse, from end to beginning. At some point midway they meet in perfect harmony.
It’s a wild idea and it works pretty well largely due to the calibre of the songs and Higginson and Lynch whose performances are among the best on the London stage right now.
As New Yorker Jamie achieves success as a writer, confidence curdling into vanity as his ego swells, Cathy’s career as an aspiring actress stalls time and again, undermining the morale that only a serious and loyal relationship might restore.
A grand baby piano on a revolving stage allows the performers to play, sing and bring gestural momentum to an otherwise static piece.
The vividly textured songs, inspired by different musical eras, supply life and colour; the lyrics are both romantic and grittily realistic, like an ice cream cone sprinkled with ground glass.
The rapture and hope here is finite, the happiness and triumphs hollow; sadness and disappointment is the stuff of life, love and dreams.
And yet, there is something genuinely uplifting too.
Cathy’s vulnerability contrasts brutally with Jamie’s charismatic go-for-it energy and although he dominates it is her journey that is truly memorable.
● Garrick Theatre until October 17, tickets: 0330 333 4811
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