‘The Last Five Years’ opens in Stage Right Pittsburgh’s new home |
Theater & Arts

‘The Last Five Years’ opens in Stage Right Pittsburgh’s new home

Candy Williams
Will Docimo and Jenna Hayes star in Stage Right Pittsburgh’s first show of the year, ‘The Last Five Years,’ Feb. 14-16 at its new home at Aspinwall Riverfront Park.

Stage Right Pittsburgh has an idea for Valentine’s Day weekend that will combine seats to a stage show, complimentary bubbly, chocolate strawberries and a rose for that special someone.

Does it get any better than that?

Or theatergoers can forego the VIP package and just enjoy the first adult performance in the theater company’s new home at Aspinwall Riverfront Park.

Season opener

The theater company opens its 2019 season Feb. 14-16 with a modern musical, “The Last Five Years,” written and composed by Jason Robert Brown.

Performing Arts Education President Jim Froehlich, who is co-directing the show with Jamie McDonald, stage manager, said the musical was a perfect fit for the new venue.

Stage Right previously performed shows at The Oaks Theater in Oakmont after moving from the Lauri Ann West Community Center in O’Hara.

“When the opportunity arose to have a full-time presence at Aspinwall Riverfront Park, we knew that our first adult show there had to be spectacular,” Froehlich said. “Thankfully we had the talent readily available to us with Jenna Hayes (Cathy) and Will Docimo (Jamie), who are both part of our executive committee and who are both amazing performers.”

Backed by a six-piece string orchestra with musical direction by Kevin Milliken, the couple details the good and bad parts of their relationship, only with a twist. One relates their tale chronologically from meeting to break-up; the other in reverse chronological order, from break-up to meeting.

Music with a passion

“The way this show is told is unique,” Hayes said. “Being able to see the devastation back to back with utter joy is very emotional for the audience. I would encourage all theatergoers to see this show in their lifetime; for the sake of the story it tells of love and loss, and for the passionate music Jason Robert Brown writes.”

Since the show focuses on a five-year adult relationship, it’s the perfect show for anyone of high school age and up, she said, and “this show is essentially a musical opera, with little dialogue and each song flowing consecutively after the other. It’s a real challenge, and a heartbreaking story.”

Hayes of Shadyside starred in the musical “Drood” and the cabaret “Love at the Oaks” and is current vice president and educational director of Stage Right.

For Docimo of O’Hara, the hardest part of the musical “is trying to fit five years of love and heartbreak into about 45 minutes of stage time. Without giving too much away, Jamie is hard to root for, but there’s a reason that Cathy falls in love with him.”

He said people should see the musical because it tells a whole story.

Range of emotions

“It is funny, tragic, happy, sad and romantic, sometimes all at once. Hopefully it gives people a lot to think about, while leaving them humming some of the songs,” he said.

Docimo last performed with Stage Right in 2015, in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Froehlich of Aspinwall has been involved with Stage Right for six years and has either produced, directed or acted in 14 productions. His acting credits include Pittsburgh New Works Festival and “Perfect Wedding” with Stage Right.

“This particular show is extremely important to us because of our desire to reestablish ourselves as a consistent and reliable source of entertainment in our community,” he said. “We can’t be more appreciative of the people at Aspinwall Riverfront Park for affording us this opportunity, and we intend on making the most of it.”

Stage Right’s season will continue March 21-30 with John Cariani’s comedy, “Almost, Maine” directed by Lora Oxenrieter, followed Aug. 1-4 by its Young Artists summer musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.