Beckwith to open musical production about failed marriage Friday
Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 24, 2015
While the cast list may be small, the drama and emotions that will be on display on the Beckwith Theatre Company stage will be anything but.
The local theater group will host the premiere of its latest musical production, Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years,” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The two-person show will run at the downtown theater over the next two weekends, with Friday and Saturday shows beginning at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Sundays.
The musical, written by the Tony Award-winning composer in 2001, is the story of a failed marriage between rising novelist Jamie Wellerstein (played by Dan Maxon) and struggling actress Cathy Hiatt (played by Laura Strunk). The plot is told from the perspectives of both leads at different points in their relationship — in fact, the two performers only share the stage together at one single point in the show, said director Melissa Auvil.
“It’s an emotional roller coaster for the audience,” Auvil said. ”You’re on a high one moment, and then one of the characters pulls you back down.”
Auvil, who has helmed two prior shows at the Dowagiac community theater, has been wanting to work on this particular show for the last 12 years, since watching a production of it at theater in Midland, Michigan, back in 2003, she said.
“You can’t help but get pulled into the characters,” she said.
Auvil and the pair of cast members have been preparing for opening night since early August, primarily practicing at one of the music rooms at Southwestern Michigan College.
Despite having two characters on stage to manage, the production is anything but small time, the director said. In addition to stagehands assisting with the lighting, sound and set production, a six-person orchestra will be on stage, performing the more than a dozen musical numbers during the show, Auvil said.
“They’re like another character on stage,” she said.
The show presents a number of unique challenges to the cast members themselves, especially for Strunk, whose character’s perspective of the relationship is told in reverse chronological order compared to her counterpart.
“It’s difficult, but it’s a good kind of difficult,” Strunk said about the role. “It’s challenging, fun and different, way different.”
This is Strunk’s second performance at Beckwith. The Kalamazoo resident was a cast member in the theater group’s 2010 production of “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
“I love this theater because it’s so intimate,” she said. “You can actually see the reactions on the faces of the audience. There’s nothing else like it.”
“The Last Five Years” will run at Beckwith from Sept. 25-27 and Oct. 2-4. Tickets for the show cost $15. Reservations can be made by calling 782-7653.
“It’s going to blow you away,” Strunk said.