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'Last Five Years' goes in opposite directions

CLEARWATER

In The Last Five Years, characters Jamie Wellerstein, an up-and-coming Jewish novelist, and Cathy Hiatt, a struggling actor, both have a lot to say about their five-year relationship.

What makes it tricky — and interesting — is that the story is sung from start to finish.

And from finish to start.

She goes backward in time as he tells it chronologically.

The 20-something couple meet and face each other only once in real time — at their wedding about midway through the play.

"It was chosen because it is a fresh new show that we think will excite a younger generation of theatergoers as well as entertain our returning patrons," said Jason Freeman, treasurer for the West Coast Players, the group presenting the show.

The contemporary song-cycle musical kicks off a seven-show season at the Players' newer venue tucked in the Clearwater Commerce Center behind Clearwater Toyota. The Last Five Years will have a three-weekend run with nine shows that begin tonight.

Spokesman Bill Charber described the play as "black box theater where there is very little scenery and the emphasis is on the people and the show itself."

With the exception of a couple of stagehands who appear occasionally on the set, Jamie and Cathy are the only two characters.

The roles are played by Matt Patrick, 21, a musical theater major at Catawba College in North Carolina and Taryn Holzhauer, 19, of Clearwater, who is attending St. Petersburg College and wants to become a psychologist.

Holzhauer, who has had parts in several Countryside High musicals, said the process of singing half of a whole show has strengthened her vocal pipes.

"In week one, I couldn't get through it," she said. "Now, it's no problem at all."

She said she loves playing the part of Cathy, a vulnerable actress trying to make it work with a guy and a career.

"I think we can all relate to that," she said.

Patrick, a baritone, has sung at Carnegie Hall, as well as in several college productions. He said he hopes for a career in Broadway, film and television.

"As long as I'm acting I'll be happy," he said.

He described his character as a "very confident, very arrogant author who ultimately finds the success he wants but unfortunately hurts somebody very special to him."

The musical director is Nathan Daugherty, 18, of Palm Harbor. He's headed to Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., where he has a full scholarship in operatic voice and music education.

Daugherty will be playing the stringed instrument parts on the keyboard as he conducts the three-piece orchestra.

The show was written by composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown, who won Drama Desk Awards for the music and lyrics after the Off-Broadway premiere in 2002. Five Years was cited as one of Time magazine's 10 Best of 2001.

One of the biggest challenges of the play was casting the two parts, said director Lil Barcaski.

"The actors have to be young and able to sing really, really, really well," she said. "We were fortunate to find two people who can sing their roles."

Have a Diversions idea? Contact Terri Reeves at treeves@tampabay.rr.com.

if you go

'The Last Five Years'

A contemporary song-cycle musical that chronicles the failed marriage of two young New Yorkers.

When: Tonight through Aug. 16. Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Where: West Coast Players Theatre, 21905 U.S. 19 N, in the Clearwater Commerce Center behind Clearwater Toyota on U.S. 19 N. Follow the access road at Drew Street. WCP is the first building on the right.

Admission: $22. Seniors, students and military, $20. Groups of 10 or more, $18, with advance reservations required.

Info: Call (727) 734-7100 or visit wcplayers.org.

'Last Five Years' goes in opposite directions 07/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 30, 2009 5:15pm]

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