Upcoming two-actor musical explores love, relationships

TheLastFiveYears2Mini G&G feature premieres next week.

In anticipation of Garnet & Gold’s production of Anything Goes, premiering this coming January, Meghan McLean and Josh MacDougall are set to star in Jason Robert Brown’s two-actor musical The Last Five Years.

“I think it’s a show that basically anyone can relate to,” said third-year drama student Josh MacDougall, who plays Jamie Wellerstein. “[It] takes an honest look at what being in love is.”

The musical, a 90-minute sung-through feature directed by Karen Valanne, follows the romantic relationship of Cathy and Jamie over the course of five years.

Meghan McLean, a fourth-year music student who both produces the play and stars as Cathy, was first drawn to the play for its musical and emotional diversity. “It takes you on a roller coaster ride,” said McLean.

The play is reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s film Memento in its narrative construction, as it alternates between telling its love story both chronologically and in reverse. The audience first learns that the story ends in tragedy, as the play opens with Cathy lamenting their shattered relationship at the end of the five-year span.

For McLean, this fragmented narrative style presented a challenge, as her character’s emotions evolve backwards in time towards the happy outset of their relationship. “I’ve never been in a show that starts in that really intense emotional place,” said McLean. “We start right in the heart of that emotion.”

Both MacDougall and McLean commented on the play’s realistic treatment of love and human experience. Because Jamie and Cathy remain morally ambiguous, the audience is invited to question the characters’ motives and actions throughout the play.

“We show both sides of the story,” said McDougall. “It’s up to the audience to decide who is in the right and who is in the wrong.”

Despite each character’s shortcomings, McLean said that the struggles and challenges they face make Cathy and Jamie both relatable and sympathetic. “You really get invested in the characters,” said McLean. “You start to sympathize with them when they keep coming up against these walls.”

Because of its heavy focus on music and vocal performance rather than dialogue, the play uses a variety of musical styles to convey the various emotions in the story. McLean said that the play finds an effective “middle ground” between traditional elements of musical theatre and some jazz, rock, funk, and pop influences. “For people who aren’t used to musicals, it’s very accessible,” said McLean.

McLean also commended the pit band for their work with the score, and the rest of the production crew that has helped this project come to fruition. “I’m just so proud of everything we’re doing,” she said. “Everybody who’s involved has really put so much work into it.”

Both McLean and MacDougall are excited for audiences to become immersed in the play’s characters.

“I think [The Last Five Years] will give a lot of people a good laugh and a good cry,” said MacDougall. “It’ll be a nice break during exams.”

The Last Five Years will premiere on Dec. 5 and 6 in Brunton Auditorium at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Tidewater Books for $8, or at the door for $10.

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