‘The Last Five Years’ to open this weekend

The UW-Eau Claire Players present a musical filled with love and heartbreak


Photo by Kelsey Smith

Cathy (Bridget Cushman) and Jamie (Jacob Milton) share only one intimate scene together throughout the musical.

In the small confines of a dark room, raw emotion takes the stage in the form of a love story.

But there is no happily ever after at the end of this tale; rather, the stark reality of what can happen when youthful egos and jealousy take the place of love in a relationship.

A two-sided story of love and loss, “The Last 5 Years” chronicles the ups and downs of love in a brutally honest but emotionally fulfilling way.

With only a two person cast, the musical tells the story of actress Cathy (Bridget Cushman) and novelist Jamie (Jacob Hilton) and their five year relationship that ultimately ends in divorce. Cathy’s story is told in reverse chronological order (beginning the show at the end of their marriage) while Jamie’s is told from the beginning of their relationship to end.

The couple’s stories coincide only once throughout the musical, at their wedding.

The characters are both artists trying to make a living off their craft. While Jamie becomes a very successful writer very quickly, Cathy struggles to find success as an actress, which is where the conflict arises in their relationship.

Written by Jason Robert Brown, “The Last 5 Years” was inspired by his failed marriage and premiered in 2001.

UW-Eau Claire student and director of “The Last 5 Years,” Cory McMenomy, said he is passionate about the show and has been interested in directing the musical for a long time.

“I have always been drawn to being in shows and this was the first show I heard where I was like ‘I want to direct this,’” McMenomy said. “I love the music, the lyrics are amazing and I think it is so cool how the two stories are told and they overlap only once in the show.”

McMenomy said he felt the simplistic staging of the play and small cast made it perfect for a college performance.

The show is designed to make people think, McMenomy said. With Cathy’s story told in reverse chronological order and Jamie’s in chronological order, the audience can expect to find themselves feeling a whirlwind of emotions at every scene change.

Jacob Hilton, an Eau Claire student studying musical education who plays the role of Jamie, said the musical goes from feelings of young love and excitement one second, to feeling the emotional pain of a failed relationship the next.

“You jump back and forth between happy and sad,” Hilton said. “It kind of screws with your emotions, but in a good way.”

With a cast of only two, Hilton said there were added challenges when it came to learning the play and performing, as each character plays an integral role in displaying the story to viewers. It took one month for both performers to learn half of the script.

Bridget Cushman, a vocal performance student who plays the role of Cathy, said the production team has done a great job of making sure there is an evolution of the characters, one which you can clearly see.

Cushman said the music is incredible, switching between songs that are upbeat and jazzy to songs that require showmanship and are similar to what you’d expect to hear in musical theatre.

“The music is so intertwined with ridiculous rhythms and tempo builds,” Cushman said. “Stylistically, it’s really diverse.”

“The Last 5 Years” premieres on campus in Kjer Theatre Thursday Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.. With only 70 seats available at each show, tickets are scarce.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with one afternoon showtime at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $6 and available for purchase online at uwec.edu/servicecenter.