After the Love Has Gone

Bailey Carlson (L) and Thomas Gjere sing a tale of doomed love.

Jamie and Cathy were always on parallel paths.  He was from a traditional Jewish family.  She was a free spirit.  He was a successful writer.  She was a struggling actress.  As his career soared, hers bottomed out.  It was a love doomed to fail.  See their story in The Last Five Years currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Stunning.  Simply stunning.

Every now and again, one comes upon a piece of theatrical kismet.  The story is just right.  You have the right performers.  You have the right director.  The music is just right.  The needed intangibles are in place.  And the end result is something almost transcendent.  The Playhouse’s production of The Last Five Years is one of those shows.

Jason Robert Brown has worked an impressive piece of magic with his story and score.  The framing device of telling the two characters’ stories simultaneously, but oppositely (Jamie’s story is told from beginning to end while Cathy’s story is told from end to beginning) is an inspired touch.  He has also written a moving tale that grabs your soul from the start and doesn’t let up until the final note is sung.  And his score?  Wow!  Nothing but a slate of memorable tunes that are touching, funny and, at times, painful.  Stylistically, the show is similar to an Andrew Lloyd Webber production as very little dialogue is utilized.  The story is operatic and told almost entirely in song.

Susie Baer-Collins returns to the Playhouse to direct and does a superlative job with the production.  Her staging was original and truthful to the story.  Taking advantage of social distancing, Baer-Collins always makes sure there’s a space between the performers, but that’s critical to the story because there is always something keeping Jamie and Cathy apart.  Her coaching of the two thespians is epic as their performances are spot on and nuanced.  No emotional moment is missed or wasted.  No note is off key.  And the show’s emotional trek is precise and gripping.

The theatre could barely contain the energy of Bailey Carlson.  She was a dynamo and had my attention riveted from the moment she uttered the first notes of “Still Hurting”.  Her animation was off the charts and always apropos to the emotional beats of her songs.  Her Cathy begins as an angry woman who refuses to accept any responsibility in the dissolution of her marriage, but as her story winds to the beginning, we get to see that she was once a fun loving, if high spirited gal.  Yet there was always an edge of jealousy to her personality as she wanted her own success and refused to be seen, in her own mind, as lesser than her “genius” husband which explains her obsession with becoming a big star.

Carlson also possesses a knockout alto that captured the subtlest emotion or overwhelmed you with its strength.  If she wasn’t wowing you with her anger and sadness in numbers like “Still Hurting” and “See I’m Smiling”, she was making you laugh with “A Summer in Ohio” or just getting you to remember the bloom of first love with “Goodbye Until Tomorrow”.

I personally considered Thomas Gjere’s performance as Jamie his best to date and I was glad to see him play a bit against type as I’ve normally seen him in more unsympathetic roles.  His take on Jamie is complete and utter perfection.  His childlike glee when his Jamie gains a powerful literary agent is infectious and delightful and his love for Cathy is palpable and real.  Seeing him collapse emotionally as his marriage crumbles melts even the coldest of hearts and it allows the audience to understand, if not necessarily agree with or condone some of his poor personal responses to his failing nuptials.

Gjere has got one, smooth mellow tenor which he harnessed to full potential as he made the audience laugh with “Shiksa Goddess” where he professes his love for Cathy while shocking his mother at the same time.  He also shines in favorite number, “The Schmuel Song”, where he tries to inspire Cathy with a story.  Yet he can also reduce your innards to pulp as he tries to shore up Cathy’s confidence while telling her he won’t fail to make her feel better in “If I Didn’t Believe in You” and will crush you with his tragic “I Could Never Rescue You”.

Jim Othuse supplies some scenic prestidigitation with a simple set of stairs, a boat and a few pieces of furniture that effortlessly slide in and out to set up scenes.  I was bowled over by Janet Morr’s artistry on the seaside set, especially by the rolling waves which was furthered enhanced by the sea sounds supplied by John Gibilisco and Tim Burkhart.  Michelle Garrity’s choreography was simple, yet effective and made good use of social distancing.  I loved the emotional coloring of Lindsay Pape’s costumes.  When the characters are at their happiest, their clothes are the brightest.  At their saddest, they wear mournful black.  Jim Boggess and his mighty orchestra nail the score to the floor.

At the beginning, there was an ending.  At the ending, there was a beginning.  But, for me, it was one of the most personally satisfying shows I’ve seen in a spell and you need to get a ticket and experience it for yourselves.

The Last Five Years plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through March 21.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets begin at $25 and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. The show will also be available via streaming starting March 5 via the ShowTix4U platform. Due to adult language, the show is not recommended for children. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Robertson Photography

‘The Last Five Years’ Launches 2nd Half of OCP Season

Omaha, NE.– The Omaha Community Playhouse kicks off its second half of the 2020/21 Season with The Last Five Years—opening Friday, Feb. 26. The show will be held in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre at OCP. Performances will run Wednesdays through Sundays through Sunday, March 23. The Hawks Mainstage Theatre will allow for social distancing and other safety precautions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A captivating, intimate musical that retraces the rise and fall of a five-year romantic relationship. The story is presented in chronological order by Jamie, the man, and in reverse by Cathy, the woman, with the two versions of the story meeting only once—at their wedding in the middle. Profoundly emotional with comedic moments sprinkled throughout, The Last Five Years is beautifully heartbreaking.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $25, with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

COVID-19 INFORMATION

All audience, staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks. Masks will be available free of charge and must be worn properly in accordance with CDC guidelines. Patrons attending a show in either theatre will be socially distanced from other guests with all groups at least six feet apart. Productions will not incorporate any physical audience participation.

Audience members will be required to self-screen for a fever and symptoms of illness prior to arriving at OCP. Those with fever or other symptoms may exchange their ticket at no cost.

Lobbies, reception areas and lines will be arranged and marked to encourage social distancing. Plexiglass barriers will be installed in the box office windows with cash-free payments encouraged, touchless credit card transactions offered and touch-free ticket pickup available. Common areas and performance halls will be cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis with both cleanser and electrostatic technology.

All restrooms will be outfitted with touchless fixtures and will be sanitized daily and throughout performances. We will no longer hold post-show meet and greets with the actors in the lobby. Concessions and drinks will not be available and public water fountains will be closed.

STREAMING INFORMATION

The Last Five Years will be available to rent for at-home viewing beginning Friday, March 5 on the ShowTix4U platform. To view all OCP streaming events on ShowTix4U, visit https://www.showtix4u.com/events/ocp

The Last Five Years
by Jason Robert Brown

Directed By: Susie Baer-Collins

Cast
Thomas Gjere as Jamie
Bailey Carlson as Cathy

OCP Holding Auditions for ‘The Last Five Years’

Omaha, NE.–The Omaha Community Playhouse is holding auditions for the upcoming production of The Last Five Years on Saturday, Oct. 31 at 11 a.m. at OCP, located at 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132. Video auditions are being accepted now through Oct. 31. Those who wish to submit a video audition can send their video to Becky Deiber at bdeiber@omahaplayhouse.com

Through upholding high ethical standards, demonstrating respect for all and consciously working to provide diverse representation, OCP is committed to creating an inclusive and safe environment in which all community members feel a sense of belonging, and does not discriminate in casting practices on the basis of an individual’s ethnicity, age, gender, physical and cognitive ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, country of origin or other factors. Omaha Community Playhouse is committed to diverse and inclusive casting.

Production: The Last Five Years

Written and Composed By: Jason Robert Brown

Director: Susan Baer Collins

Show Dates: Jan. 15–Feb. 7, 2021

Show Synopsis: A captivating, intimate musical that retraces the rise and fall of a five-year romantic relationship. The story is presented in chronological order by Jamie, the man, and in reverse by Cathy, the woman, with the two versions of the story meeting only once—at their wedding in the middle. Profoundly emotional with comedic moments sprinkled throughout, The Last Five Years is beautifully heartbreaking.

Roles

Catherine Hiatt; Age 25 to 35; Vocal range top D#5; Vocal range bottom F3; Character arcs from an ambitious, fresh-faced girl in a new relationship to a woman stunned by a betrayal and a divorce that she is only beginning to understand.

Jamie Wellerstein; Gender male; Age 25 to 35; Vocal range top Bb4; Vocal range bottom A2; Character arcs from an ambitious guy on a promising first date with a dazzling career to someone who is blinded by success and ego. He is lovable, yet makes unintentional choices that sabotage his own happiness.

To schedule an audition and to request paperwork, please email Becky Deiber at bdeiber@omahaplayhouse.com.

Vocal auditions will be in the Hitchcock Rehearsal Hall. Those who cannot attend in person may submit a vocal audition video.

Auditioners must fill out paperwork in advance, not at the audition. They can return completed paperwork by email or bring it with them. Specific time slots will be set in advance for each auditioner. Tryouts will be in groups of no more than 15. Temperatures of auditioners will be taken upon arrival. Auditioners will be required to wear a facemask. Auditioners will be allowed to sing only 16 bars of a song of their choosing, for which they should bring sheet music. Provided seating will be plastic or metal chairs only, no fabric upholstery. The audition space will be sanitized between groups . When arriving to audition, please enter through the south entrance lobby doors.

Please Bring: All contact information, personal schedules and a list of rehearsal conflicts with which to fill out an audition form. To expedite the check-in process, please bring a recent photo if you have one available. Please note, photos will not be returned.

Contact: For more information, contact Becky Deiber, bdeiber@omahaplayhouse.com, at(402) 661-8539.

PART to Present ‘The Last Five Years’

Performing Artists Repertory Theatre presents
The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown

Location:  7400 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE 68114

Curtain Times: Friday and Saturdays, March 24, 25, 31 and April 1 at 7pm; Sundays, March 26 and April 2 at 2pm.

Ticket Costs: $35 Regular Admission, $30 Seniors, $25 Students and Military

Theatre/Box Office contact info: 402-706-0778

Summary

The Last Five Years tells the powerful story of Cathy and Jamie, two twenty-something New Yorkers who dive headfirst into a marriage fueled by the optimism that comes from finding “the one.” But in a city where professional and personal passions collide and only the strongest relationships survive, Cathy’s journey is told from ending to beginning, and Jamie’s from beginning to end. Funny, honest, and intimate, and with an exuberantly romantic The Last Five Years takes a bold look at one young couple’s hope that love endures the test of time.

Cast: Leanne Hill Carlson and John Jones.

Musical Direction by Doran Schmidt

Directed by Gordon P. Cantiello

Lighting by Sandy Hatcher

Production Stage Manager:  John Flemming

Sound by Doug Huggins

House Manager:  Erron Antisdel.