Sneak Peek by Charles Roetting of The Last Five Years: Carnegie Theatre
In its simplest form it’s about a man and a woman who fall in love, get married and then get divorced. The woman tells her side of the story from the end of the marriage backwards, the man tells his from the first date forwards, and they do it in alternating segments. They are never in the same place at the same time except in the middle when they get married. So you get to see from two perspectives how things are created and how they are falling apart.—Jason Robert Brown
THE LAST 5 YEARS, by Jason Robert Brown, originally premiered in Chicago in 2001. Though reviews were initially mixed, it went on to spawn countless productions and recently a major motion picture of the same name.
Now THE LAST 5 YEARS has come to The Carnegie, featuring an all-star cast and creative team led by one of Cincinnati’s best young directors, Lindsay Augusta Mercer , whose most recent credit was the masterfully crafted ST. JOAN with Diogenes Theatre.
Walking into the space during a rehearsal, I’m immediately struck by the set design. Many doors of different shapes and sizes adorn the set. They seem raw, vulnerable, exposed. Center Stage sits a lone piano and Stage Right a cello. There’s something surreal and captivating about the space.
I sit down with Director Mercer, Music Director Erin McCamley, Performers Leslie Kelly & Wes Carman, and Set Designer Tyler Gabbard to discuss the production.
CR: Tell me a little about the tone of show. How would you describe it?
Mercer: This is show is evocative of sensitivity, loss, & joy. It’s very good, very challenging. But it’s also popular and accessible. Not a lot of shows can be all those things.
CR: For the unitiated, what is it that makes this show interesting? Why would someone want to come see it?
Carman: It’s about seeing parts of your own life. It’s immediately relatable to anybody that’s experienced love…or a relationship.
McCamley: Incredibly relatable.
Kelly: It’s such a tale of loss. Blood, sweat, and tears.
Mercer: The show certainly speaks to young 20-somethings but has the breadth to reach anyone. Younger people will still like this and identify with it. It’s what they are aspiring to. Older people will recognize the themes in the show. People who know the show…it’s hard to find someone musical who hasn’t been in love with the show at some point.
McCamley: I know how it ends, but every time…it gets me every time.
Kelly: It seems one-sided but at the end, you’re rooting for both.
CR: Let’s talk about the music for a moment. You have the actors playing music, Wes on the cello and Leslie on piano. I think it’s cool but what motivated that choice?
Mercer: The characters never really meet until the middle. Playing the instruments allows the actors to be present in one another’s narrative. It’s great that JRB (Jason Robert Brown) wrote the music and lyrics. Often times, the clues are in the text; here, a lot of the clues are in the music. They are already present musically in one another’s songs. Adding to that by playing the instruments allows them to be present in one another’s narrative.
CR: What is the meaning of the doors that cover the stage?
Gabbard: We talked a lot about liminal space and doors are the ultimate liminal space.
(Note: I didn’t actually know what the word “liminal” meant. But in looking it up, I found this definition:
1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.)
CR: Fantastic. Any final words about this process?
McCamley: Getting to participate in this caliber of theatre-making is a dream.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS follows the joys and sorrows of Jamie and Cathy, a young couple struggling to find balance between career and relationship. In a creative twist that makes this show pure magic, we venture through their story following Jamie from the beginning of their romance to the end and following Cathy from the end to the beginning. However, their storytelling overlaps for just a moment, on the day of their wedding, for one of the most beautiful duets ever written for the musical theatre.
Beloved American composer, Jason Robert Brown, creates an extraordinarily captivating score that has been staged and sung the world over, and is now featured in the 2015 feature film starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. This romantic drama is a night of theatre not to be missed.
Tickets $28, $25 for Carnegie Members and Enjoy the Arts Members, $21 for students.
Tickets are available at The Carnegie Box Office, open Tuesday through Friday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., or by phone at (859) 957-1940.