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Arts and Entertainment

Springfield Little Theatre Opens Its 86th Season With "The Last Five Years"

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(Poster design courtesy Springfield Little Theatre)
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Springfield Little Theatre has officially opened its 86th season—under less than ideal circumstances, perhaps, but like all of us they’re making the best of the situation.  Josh Inmon, director of the opening show, the musical “The Last Five Years,” joined us on “Arts News.”                                                                                      

It opened last night, and the opening-night audience received it very well. Inmon admitted, “Certainly a year ago, this is not how we thought we'd be opening this season. But it's going well. We're really excited about ‘The Last Five Years’. It’s a different title than you're used to seeing” on the Landers Theatre stage, in that it’s “definitely an intimate show.” There are only two actors in the show: Aryn Bohannon, who plays Cathy, and Dillon Savage in the role of Jamie.

The show was created by Tony-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, and Josh Inmon said he feels a show like this is “perfect for these times and it's relevant. And I think it's just a beautiful piece of theatre. The music of the show is really the heart of it. So I think audiences, whether you're a theater person or not, you’ll really fall in love with this show.”

As Inmon explained the plot, “We're looking at a relationship between two people, Cathy and Jamie, and we see this told from two different perspectives. We see Jamie's story like you would expect in any show, where it starts at the beginning, where they first meet, their first date, and goes all the way through the relationship. And then we see Cathy's story of the same relationship--told in reverse. So she starts at the end and works her way back. The characters only actually meet on stage together once in the show and everything else is isolated.” The couple’s wedding takes place right in the middle of the show.

“That's the one the one place that they meet, and then they go about their ways. So it's definitely an interesting title, and I think it's one of those that everybody can relate to it. No matter where you are in your life, you see different aspects of whether it’s Cathy’s story or Jamie’s story. And no matter where you are relationship-wise in your life, you see different aspects that you can relate to.”

Josh Inmon is clearly a fan of composer Jason Robert Brown. “If you're a theater person at all, you know and love his music. It's really it's the heart of the show; the music itself is almost its own character within the show. And it's played beautifully by our music director, Parker Payne. He's on stage so you get to see that, too, which is really fun. And the songs in the show are just incredible. You know, the music and the lyrics, it all comes together just to create a beautiful story.” And they’re all solo numbers. The two characters only sing together twice in the show: once during the wedding scene, and then a bit in the finale, “even though,” said Inmon, by that time “they’re in two different worlds.”

Aryn Bohannon (Cathy) is a veteran of Springfield Little Theatre who grew up in SLT’s education program.  She’s now a musical theater major at Boston Conservatory. “We're really lucky to have her come back and do this,” said Inmon. Dillon Savage (Jamie) is a musical theater major here at Missouri State University. And, Inmon added, “they're both doing excellent work. And it grows every night. Every performance we see new things that they're coming up with. And it just it gets stronger and stronger.”

“The Last Five Years” is performed at the Landers Theatre, 311 E. Walnut, through August 30th: Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sunday afternoons at 2:00. But, it should be needless to say, SLT is practicing social distancing during the run of the show, and requires audience members to wear masks. “Our normal house seats about 530, and we are seating right at 130 for this (show),” according to director Josh Inmon. “So plenty of social distancing. The way that you check in to the theater, you remain distant. Obviously, everyone wears a mask.” Patrons are not allowed to hang around in the Landers lobby before, during or after the performance.  Since this show runs 85 minutes straight through, there’s no intermission, and no concessions will be sold. When people exit the theater, they are dismissed by row.” Seating will be both on the orchestra floor and in the balcony, but socially distanced—“spread out,” Inmon called it.

Keeping everyone safe in a pandemic, said Inmon, “is obviously very important for us, for our patrons, of course, and then also the staff and the volunteer actors and our crew members. “And I have to say, between this and our education facility, I think the staff at Springfield Little Theatre has just done a phenomenal job, making sure that safety is our priority.”

While “The Last Five Years” will not be streamed online, Josh Inmon said the rest of LT’s 86th season --scheduled to include shows like "Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits,' "Clue The Musical," "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Sound of Music," "Shout!," and "Chicago," and "Matilda The Musical”—will be streamed online. “We are working towards that with other titles. We're really trying to expand what we do and just make sure that theater is accessible to this whole community. We have the capability now to do live streaming.” That means a multi-camera setup, with an LT staff member directing camera shots.

Despite the logistical issues involved in performing live theater in a socially-distanced, pandemic-conscious way, Josh Inmon said “there's nothing like seeing live theater.
Even at reduced capacity, still there's just magic that happens when you're in that room. Like I said, we're being extremely safe with it. But what a time to come out and see a unique title that that we haven't had on our stage, really an intimate show. We're really proud of that work.”

For tickets visit www.springfieldlittletheatre.org or call the Landers box office at (417) 869-1334, noon-5pm Monday through Friday.