Gwangju troupe to perform musical ‘The Last Five Years’

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jul 8, 2015 - 18:25
  • Updated : Jul 8, 2015 - 21:47

Caitlin O’Neill and Adam Volle will appear in Gwangju Performance Project’s “The Last Five Years.” (Relja Kojic)
The Gwangju Performance Project is set to open its run of the popular musical “The Last Five Years” on July 17.

The musical, written by U.S. composer and playwright Jason Robert Brown, debuted in Chicago in 2001 and has since been performed by theater companies worldwide.

GPP president Heather Aitken, who will also direct the show, selected “The Last Five Years” to try something new, as it was a genre they had yet to attempt.

“We’ve had success with cabaret-style productions, but have never done a musical, so we wanted to test the waters with something small. The musical is also incredibly diverse, ranging from jazz to show tunes to traditional Jewish music.”

The musical follows two characters, Jamie and Cathy, over five years as they move from the joys of the early stages of their relationship, to trials, decline and separation. The key factor in their eventual divorce is Jamie’s comparative success as a novelist to Cathy’s inability to find work as an actress.

The plot unfolds along two trajectories and from the perspective of each character, allowing the audience to process the events of the play on a number of levels. From Cathy’s perspective, we see the relationship move backward from its breakdown to its beginning. Jamie’s story moves forward. The two stories cross over in the middle of the play on the couple’s wedding day.

The small cast, traditionally consisting of two people, lends the show an extra level of intimacy. Aitken decided to expand the cast to five in order to allow more members to participate in the show, splitting the roles of the main characters into a vocalist and a dancer for each, and adding a third performer in the role of Jamie’s publisher.

Adding more members to the cast has also allowed Aitken to diversify the narrative.

“For the role of Jamie, we have a male in the vocal part and a female in the dancing part, allowing us to explore the relationship dynamic from both a heterosexual and a homosexual perspective.”

The Gwangju Performance Project is an amateur English-language expat theater troupe that has flourished in the presence of a strong international community, supported by the Gwangju International Center.

The group consists of about 100 members, and brings together trained actors with degrees in the performing arts and those with no experience.

Recently, it has expanded their reach to the wider community, providing Korean translations of performances.

It also hosts monthly workshops on different performing arts topics, such as stage combat in June, and a Shakespeare workshop this month, which will set the scene for the next performance.

After “The Last Five Years” wraps up, the GPP will be busy with a number of other events, including auditioning for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to be performed at its 24-hour Arts Festival, and preparations for a show at Gwangju’s Alleycon.

Tickets for the musical can be booked for 12,000 won at Tickets at the door will cost 15,000 won. It will be performed at Gwangju Art Hall, running four performances from July 17-19.

By Louisa Studman (