Backward and forward, it’s love: ‘The Last 5 Years’ opening at Lost NationBy Jim LoweStefan Hard / Staff Photo
Cathy, played by Mary McNulty, and Jamie, played by Aaron Aubrey, are the young couple in love, and just married, in the Lost Nation Theater production of “The Last Five Years.” In the background, on piano, is the production’s musical director, Stephen Jones.
“The Last 5 Years” begins at the end. Cathy, a struggling actress, has just received from her novelist husband Jamie a “Dear Jane” letter with the return of his wedding ring.
Lost Nation Theater opens its production of Jason Robert Brown’s intimate two-person musical May 8 at Montpelier City Hall Arts Center.
“Cathy’s storyline goes backward simultaneous to Jamie’s storyline moving forward,” explained Mary McNulty, who is playing Cathy.
Inspired by Brown’s own failed marriage, “The Last 5 Years” explores the five-year relationship between Jamie and Cathy in song.
“Cathy is everywoman,” McNulty said. “She meets this great guy, she falls in love. At the same time, being a contemporary woman, she wants to satisfy her own creative needs and wants to follow her career. How do you balance that at the same time keeping this love?”
McNulty will be joined on stage by Aaron Aubrey. Both are New York professionals and Lost Nation Theater veterans. Newcomer Stephen T. Jones, currently assistant conductor for the international tour of “West Side Story,” is music director. Lost Nation Producing Artistic Director Kathleen Keenan is directing.
“It’s kind of the best of all worlds,” Keenan said. “The music is absolutely glorious — intricate and lovely — and sticks in your head. You go out singing the songs.”
On the other hand, there are enormous acting challenges.
“All of the material, and the depth, and the complexity of life are in these songs,” she said. “They’re amazingly challenging monologues.”
It was, in fact, McNulty and Aubrey who suggested the show to Lost Nation. Although they had never sung in a musical at Lost Nation, Keenan heard the two once at a reception.
“Their voices together were so lovely,” she said.
“The music is so challenging and I think it’s really going to stretch myself and Mr. Aubrey,” McNulty said. “Just from a singer’s point of view, it is a marathon of a show. It requires a lot of stamina vocally, physically and emotionally. So I’m really excited to take that on.’
Unlike in the days of Rodgers and Hammerstein, when songs stopped the action, the songs here often are the action.
“Each song here is furthering the plot — it’s a journey within each song,” McNulty said. “Vocally, it’s so hard. It’s difficult because it sits on that place between speak-singing and singing while also portraying the message. There are no soaring soprano lines — it’s very earthy, from the heart, music.
“The point is not to sound pretty — and that’s something, coming from a vocal background, is hard for me to wrap my head around,” McNulty said. “But it’s about telling the story.”
Lost Nation’s intimate theater within City Hall should prove ideal for this very personal musical.
“It has a cabaret quality to it in terms of that intimate relationship with the audience,” Keenan said. “What is there to be mined and brought out is infinite.”
Lost Nation Theater
Lost Nation Theater presents “The Last 5 Years,” the Jason Robert Brown musical, May 8-18 at City Hall Arts Center, 39 Main St. in Montpelier. Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursdays and Sunday, May 11; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; plus 2 p.m. matinees Saturday, May 10, and Sunday, May 18. Tickets are $30-$15, $25-$15 for students and seniors, $10 under 12; call 229-0492, or email www.lostnationtheater.org,MORE IN News
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