‘Last Five Years’ tour lands on local stage

San Antonio actor Joseph Urick and New Braunfels actress Ginger Gamble Martel perform as Jaime and Cathy at the Texas Theatre in Seguin. PHOTO BY MARY RATH

EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens

If all the world is a stage, then the Wimberley live theatre community is going to need a bigger spotlight. San Antonio-based nonprofit Texas Light Opera is closing out its small professional tour of Jason Robert Brown’s 2001 musical “The Last Five Years” at the EmilyAnn Theatre and Gardens the first weekend of March.

The tour, which includes three cities and has since completed its run at the Roxie Theatre in San Antonio, is an inaugural venture from Texas Light Opera, headed by San Antonio-based actor Joseph Urick. Urick also headlines as Jaime, the lead male role of the show.

“It’s a very different type of musical,” he said about the nature of the show. Urick – who operates as an artist-in-residence and board member for Texas Light Opera, or TLO – was drawn to the emotionality of the show when he first acted in it 10 years ago.

“What I find really compelling about the show is that the story is so universal for so many couples,” he said. “Not every relationship is perfect; and I think this musical highlights that really well.”

The show follows a New York-based couple, Cathy and Jaime, who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. The story unfolds in a non-linear sequence of events, with Jaime telling the story of their relationship chronologically, and Cathy – played in TLO’s production by New Braunfels-based actress Ginger Gamble Martel – narrating her version of events backwards, from the end to the beginning. The characters only ever meet on stage together once, when their dueling narratives coincide during their wedding at the middle of the show.

“The big crux of this musical, I feel, is the lack of communication between both parties… And that’s a big thing for a lot of couples,” Urick said, describing the universal appeal of the show’s emotionality. “So, I think people will connect to this story, I think they’ll see it in their own lives, and I think they’ll learn from it.”

According to Urick, the show’s unique ability to resonate with a wide audience, combined with its minimalistic production requirements, made it an ideal production for TLO to take on tour.

“It’s only a table and a chair,” Urick said about the show’s minimal set, “that’s all we need to tell the story – we’ve decided to let the songs and the words tell the story for us.”

Urick’s hope is that the tour will help to foster a greater sense of unification throughout the distinctive theatre communities of Central Texas – specifically within the Seguin, San Antonio and Wimberley areas.

“People that have never been to these cities before might find an impulse to come out, and be part of a wider community and getting outside of their own backyard, as it were,” Urick said. “We have to realize that, y’know, Texas is a big state, but the theatre world can be very, very small, and we can work together, and we can bring productions to each other, and grow and make money from each other as well.”

While “The Last Five Years” is not the first professional tour the EmilyAnn Theatre and Gardens has hosted – the theatre was a destination for the Penfold Theatre Company’s touring production of “Servant of Two Masters” back in 2011 – artistic director Bridget Gates foresees "The Last Five Years" being a perfect fit for their Burdine Johnson Studio indoor theatre-in-the-round stage.

“I think it’ll play beautifully in the studio theatre,” Gates said, “and I think local audiences would really love it.”

Gates, who oversees the theatre’s yearly line-up, and who directed Urick in the EmilyAnn’s 2017 production of “Secret Garden,” said the major difference between “The Last Five Years” and other shows the theatre produces in-house is the small cast size. As a theatre, Gates said, the EmilyAnn generally gravitates towards shows with larger casts, which affords local actors a broader range of opportunities.

“Five or six people is considered a small cast for us,” Gates said, “much less two people. But I think it’s good – it’s different from everything else we’re doing this year… [and] the Wimberley audiences are getting exposed to something different.”

While "The Last Five Years" is the only touring production Texas Light Opera currently has planned for the year, Urick and the rest of the company are readily open to the possibility of returning to a Wimberley stage in the future.

“I’d love the opportunity,” Urick said. “And if the Wimberley community is welcome to have us, then we’ll continue to try and bring as many productions as we can.”

“The Last Five Years” closes out its regional tour at the EmilyAnn Theatre and Gardens on Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3.

Local Wimberley theatre veteran Jason Kruger directs. Kruger’s directing credits include the Wimberley Players 2017 production of “Cabaret,” as well as the Players upcoming production of “Little Shop of Horrors” this summer. Tickets for “The Last Five Years” final two nights are available through the Texas Light Opera website, TexasLightOpera.org.

San Marcos Daily Record

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