Barley Sheaf Players open season with 'The Last Five Years'
● By J. Chambless
The Barley Sheaf Players in Lionville are set to open their 2015-16 season with "The Last Five Years," a modern musical depicting the relationship of two 20-somethings: Cathy, an aspiring actress, and Jamie, a successful writer.
has an unusual format: Both characters tell the story
of their relationship, but Jamie tells it from the beginning to the
end, while – simultaneously – Cathy begins at the end of their
relationship, and goes through the story in reverse order, ending
with their first date. Because Jamie and Cathy are both telling
their story from their own perspectives and in opposite time frames,
they rarely interact. The two characters are only seen
together on stage for about ten minutes in the middle of the show,
when their separate stories combine as they both recount their
engagement and marriage.
As director Lindsay Franklin points out, this format is intentional and vital to the storyline. “The story is about being in a relationship and seeing both sides of that…getting two different perspectives over time," she said. It allows the audience to view the relationship from both characters’ viewpoints, and in doing so, provides insight into each person’s desires, motivations, and flaws.
"The Last Five Years" was inspired by composer Jason Robert Brown’s own failed marriage. It is the story of a real relationship, with all of its ups and downs, successes and mistakes. In describing what inspired her to direct this show, Franklin said, “It’s really relatable. You can find something in it that you’ve been through, or that someone you know has been through. It’s not contrived.”
Almost the entire show is sung, with very little spoken dialogue. The music is challenging, and Franklin knew that she needed to find two very strong singers to tackle the roles of Jamie and Cathy. She found that in Jeremy Wheeler (Jamie) and Allison Greet (Cathy). “They’re both incredible performers and really strong vocally, so you want to listen to them. I come to music rehearsals just to hear them sing to me," Franklin said.
Both Wheeler and Greet – who have performed on stage together during Barley Sheaf’s 2013 production of "I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change" – are excited to reunite to embark upon the poignant and, ultimately, heartbreaking journey that is Cathy and Jamie’s relationship.
"The Last Five Years" originally premiered at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre in 2001, before opening Off-Broadway in 2002. The Off-Broadway production starred Norbert Leo Butz as Jamie and Sherie Rene Scott as Cathy. It won the 2002 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics, and was also nominated for Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Actor, Outstanding Actress, Outstanding Orchestrations, and Outstanding Set Design. It was also nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. The original Off-Broadway production ran for only two months, though it was revived for another Off-Broadway production in 2013, starring Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe. A film adaptation, starring Anna Kendrick as Cathy and Jeremy Jordan as Jamie was released in theaters earlier this year.
"The Last Five Years" runs Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. from Sept. 11 through
Oct. 3. Reservations are available either online at
www.barleysheaf.org or by
calling the box office at 610-363-7075. Next, the Barley Sheaf Players will present their fall drama, "Proof," opening Oct. 30. For more information about
these shows and the Barley Sheaf Players, visit the website.