The pair chatted to us about bringing Jason Robert Brown’s musical to the West End’s Garrick Theatre.
How does it feel to be bringing The Last Five Years to the West End?
Molly: It feels surreal! Especially after the rollercoaster that has been the last 18 months. I feel extremely lucky to be working with this talented team. We’ve seen each other through this pandemic and for us all to get to the West End together feels like a total dream.
Oli: It’s a very exciting new chapter in our journey together, and I’m so excited to share our work with even more people and in a totally different kind of space.
What do you love the most about performing this show?
Molly: I think the thing I love the most is the concept that Jonathan has created. The way he integrated the actor-musician element is genius and it is so satisfying to perform. I never snap out of the story, I am always entangled in the music, be it through singing or playing. And I love sharing the stage with Oli, he is an incredible performer and a brilliant friend.
Oli: There’s always something new to discover. Cathy and Jamie are very complex and intricate characters, and it’s a very delicate and nuanced piece — you can’t really get to the bottom of it. Every night is a new opportunity to delve deeper, and learn something new. You are able to journey through so many different types of situations over the course of 90 minutes, so it’s really satisfying and cathartic as an actor.
What do you think it is about this musical that people love so much?
Molly: I think the music itself has become such a staple in the musical theatre repertoire. The original cast recording is a rite of passage for any musical theatre fan I think – we’ve all had our phase where we listened to it nonstop! Sherie Rene Scott’s voice is just iconic. I think I listened to it to death in my first year living in London.
Oli: Jason Robert Brown brilliantly presents a detailed, unbiased portrayal of two people trying to make a relationship work. He doesn’t try to sanitise the story, he doesn’t try to tie it up with a bow and go ‘and they all lived happily ever after’. It is refreshingly messy in that it doesn’t resort to stereotypes or simplified, binary ideas of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Like all human beings, Cathy and Jamie are vivid, 3-dimensional characters trying to do their best in a difficult world. It is courageously honest writing, and people will always be drawn to this musical because you cannot help to relate and see yourself in these characters and the choices they make. When you combine all that with gorgeous, catchy songs – what’s not to love?
Have you a favourite song or moment in the show that resonates with you?
Molly: Is it really cringy if I say probably ‘The Next Ten Minutes’ because it’s where Jamie proposes to Cathy and I just got engaged two weeks ago? (I know the answer is yes but who doesn’t love a good proposal?!) It’s also the only moment in the show that Oli and I are in the same time and space so it’s really special. For the rest of the show our stories are being told in opposite directions so it’s such an amazing feeling when we meet in the middle.
Oli: I love ‘Goodbye Until Tomorrow’ / ‘I Could Never Rescue You’. Molly sounds incredible singing it with such optimism, it perfectly encapsulates the bitter sweetness of the whole story. That no matter how much we try to control where life and love lead us, we can’t know what is around the corner. By putting Jamie’s ‘I Could Never Rescue You’ interlude right in the middle of Cathy’s song, it’s like the joyful innocent memories of the early moments of their relationship are flashing before him, haunting him even.
For those who haven’t seen this production – what would you say would be the main reason to come along?
Molly: As a musical theatre fan I think the main aspect that would attract me would be the actor-musicianship concept. I don’t think anyone will have seen anything like it with this show before. So many legendary actors and actresses have done this show and there are incredible interpretations of the work so I would never try and compare, but I’m hopeful that the way in which this production uses the score and the piano to bring something completely different will be really exciting to fans of the show.
Oli: Jonathan’s totally re-imagined and re-invigorated the piece, in a way that has never been done before. The new concept of each character playing the piano at key moments in the story has opened so many doors and opportunities to examine Cathy and Jamie’s relationship. Most significantly, the fact that both characters remain on stage together for the whole 90 minutes of the show. They are tangled up in each other’s story, forced to confront their memories together, and the moments that defined their relationship.
By Emma Clarendon