Over the last 18 years, Jason Robert Brown’s love story “The Last Five Years” has been performed from Chicago to Moscow. Now, it will come to Roseburg, opening Friday night at the Betty Long Unruh Theatre.
Told almost entirely through songs, the show follows up-and-coming author Jamie and struggling actress Cathy as they fall in and out of love over the course of five years.
“It’s all singing. It goes Cathy, Jamie, Cathy, Jamie, so they are only on stage alone. They only interact together on stage once and that is their engagement, which is the middle of their story,” assistant director Raegan Prawitz said.
The show’s unconventional structure begins with Cathy telling her story at the end of their marriage and moves backward in time to the beginning of their love affair. Intertwining her story, Jamie tells his story chronologically from the beginning of their relationship to the end of their marriage.
“Jamie has this book and he gets this awesome agent and he is just killin’ the game, he is doing so well,” Prawitz said. “Cathy is having a lot more difficulty with her passion and she kind of blames all her problems on Jamie and Jamie blames Cathy for holding him back. Their relationship is the conflict, the antagonist basically.”
Autumn Carter, who recently made her first appearance in July as Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” will take on the role of Cathy. Carter’s fiancé, Peter Wickliffe, will play opposite her as Jamie.
“Peter and Autumn are amazing and they sing so beautifully and their acting is just so incredible, just to see their characters come to life,” Prawitz said. “A lot of people play Jamie pretty angry at Cathy but Peter chooses to play him more sorrowful or empty of emotion, which is really cool and really refreshing to see something new. And Autumn plays Cathy as so enthusiastic and so happy.”
“Jamie is an interesting character,” Wickliffe said. “Jamie is going to come across as the villain of the piece. A lot of people are not going to like him.”
This is a sentiment that Wickliffe agrees with, as Jamie is not his favorite character. He doesn’t agree with the path that his character chooses to take, though he does think there are moments the audience might sympathize with Jamie.
“There will be some surprising moments where you’ll be like ‘man, I should really hate him but I just kind of feel pity for him,’” Wickliffe said. “He spills out his heart of why things have perpetuated the cycle and led him to where he is. He chooses all the wrong doors to walk through.”
The role has been a challenge for Wickliffe, though he feels that it has helped him grow by pushing him outside of his comfort zone.
Carter has found Cathy equally as challenging, though for different reasons.
“Cathy is interesting, especially being a theater person. Her whole career is trying to get on Broadway,” Carter said. “For Cathy, I have to start at the end and go through that emotion and kind of go backwards. I feel like it is easy to start happy and become broken, but I feel it is harder to be very broken and slowly become happy. That has been a challenge.”
Carter describes Cathy as a self-centered character and struggles not to bring the inner strength that her last role had.
“A lot of the time she is seen as the damsel in distress and she is also very selfish,” Carter said. “I felt like Belle was a very selfless character that defended herself and as much as I want to bring that to Cathy, I can’t. It can be very frustrating.”
Both Carter and Wickliffe say the musical has taught them both what not to do in a relationship.
“It’s an emotional journey,” Carter said. “If you’re in a relationship you can learn a lot about the ups and downs of a relationship. I don’t see my whole self in Cathy, but I see parts of myself and aspects that I can work on and I think both of the characters amplify those. I think it is a very real, close to home story for everybody.”
“The Last Five Years” will run 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sundays Sept. 20 through Oct. 6. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under, though the show is recommended for audiences 13 years and older due to mild language and adult situations.