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The Last 5 Years Now Running at Phoenix

Off-Broadway musical runs for four weekends at community theatre in Naugatuck.

The Last 5 Years Now Running at Phoenix

The theme best surrounding the latest offering by Naugatuck's newest community theatre is duality. 

The 2002 Drama Desk award winning musical is a study in duality. There's only two characters. And in this production at the , there are two two-person casts and dual directors. 

Two's are wild, to say the least. 

Jason Robert Brown's about the relationship between Cathy and Jamie, spanning the last five years, opened June 3, 2011, and runs for four weekends. One pair of actors will perform the mostly music based show the first two weekends (June 3-12), followed by the other pair in the last two weekends (June 17-26). 

"We decided to have two casts because this is such an iconic show," said Sharon Wilcox, who is co-directing the production along with Jane Coughlin. "So many people vied for these two roles. Everyone wanted to have the opportunity to play these roles." 

In the end, however, after the audition process was over, Coughlin and Wilcox chose Naugatuck native and now Waterbury resident Emily Diedrich and Mike L'Altrella of Shelton for couple number one, and Alyssa Fontana and Dan Porri, both of Torrington, for couple number two. And both couples have their work cut out for them.  The show, one act only without an intermission, is almost entirely music. 

"It's brilliantly creative," Wilcox, who is also one of Phoenix's tri-owners, said. "It's hard. Tremendously hard. It's a vocal triathlon for all of 97 minutes each night." 

In "The Last 5 Years", the couple, Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein, reexamine their relationship, from the start, to the wedding, to the end, but in totally different fashion. Jamie looks at the experience in chronological order, from start to finish. Cathy, however, does just the opposite, looking at the relationship starting with its end and working backwards. 

Putting their version of this musical on stage required the work and vision of Wilcox, Coughlin, who is making her directorial debut with the Phoenix, along with musical director Aaron J. Bunel. 

"Jane has had a vision of this show in her head for years, but she's never directed before," Wilcox said. "Once we started working together, it was like we were in each other's head." 

Coughlin, who has also appeared on stage at the Phoenix in last year's production of "Hallelujah Girls" concurred. 

"It's been a very enjoyable experience co-directing," she said. "Sharon and I share the same vision and we've made this work.  We're being very true to the music." 

Coughlin admitted that before ever seeing a live production of "The Last 5 Years", she had long since fallen in love with the Brown's music in the soundtrack. So much so that when she finally got to see two different productions, she was disappointed that the actors didn't seem genuine and true to the music they were given to perform. Seeking that level of truth in the characters has been her goal in this productions since day one. 

When patrons come to see this musical at the theatre located at 686 Rubber Avenue, they will see a sparse but beautifully designed stage, just enough to give an idea of the status of the relationship.

Additionally, patrons will be treated to another first for the Phoenix, a full live orchestral musical accompaniment, including keyboards, two cellos, violin, bass and guitar, all under Bunel's direction. 

And, just in case you wanted to see both casts perform this show (and both Wilcox and Coughlin stressed that both casts have their own takes on the music), the Phoenix Stage Company is offering a discounted ticket price of $35 to see both casts. (Tickets are normally priced $22 each.) To purchase tickets, call (203) 632-8546 or go to their website - www.phoenixstagecompany.org. Performances are on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

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