I grew up doing large-scale song-and-dance musicals, so theater will always be close to my heart. This weekend I was invited to a preview of The Last Five Years starring Dana Weddle and Michael Dalke at The Cupcake Theater, and the emotional performance opened me up to a world of theater more focused on heartfelt storytelling and impassioned performances.
In the true DIY-fashion of LA, Weddle and Dalke raised the money to put on the production through Kickstarter and handled every aspect of the show as its producers, building sets, renting costumes and props, creating lighting cues, hiring musicians, and much more. The stars have been friends for over a decade, and the joy and passion the actors have for this musical is behind each lyric and movement in the performance.
“For ten years we’ve been dreaming about this, but I never could have imagined the magic that is happening right now,” says Weddle. “From finding The Cupcake Theater at the perfect time to raising the money on Kickstarter. Finding skilled musicians on a shoestring budget, all of our friends who are lending a hand doing props, lights, and publicity. Family and friends who are flying in from far away to see the show…it is truly overwhelming and absolutely impossible to describe the love that we feel for this project. It has taken our breath away.”
The musical, written by Jason Robert Brown, follows the story of two young lovers, one a struggling actress and the other an aspiring novelist, who fall in and out of love over five years. The pair are separated for the entire show as each recounts the relationship in reverse chronological order (he starts at the beginning while she traces it back from the end) and only share one song together (“The Next Ten Minutes”).
Sunday evening, the duo was running their first rehearsal with the six-person orchestra. The moment the first chords rang out of opener “Still Hurting,” Weddle laughed with delight and covered her mouth with her hands.
Dalke struggles with the temptations that come with writing success with a confident belt and boastful physicality while Weddle carries her role of a struggling performer with emotional strength, thoughtful movements, and wistful singing. The performance uses the space of the theater, utilizing the two-story set and aisles.
This will be the first musical presented by the newly-opened Cupcake Theater. The new theater, which sits right on Hollywood Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood, is dedicated to bringing world-class live entertainment to an intimate stage and is the newest venue for indie musicals, comedy shows, improv, and much more. Boasting a menu of “variety acts,” owner Michael Pettenato says, “The projects the Cupcake takes on have to inspire me somehow… each of [our shows] have genius in their own way. The level of talent that we have available in Hollywood is better than anywhere else in the country.”
“With The Last Five Years, we took on the challenge of adding enormous amounts of subtext behind the lyrics, and the result is that the classic score feels fresh and vital,” Pettenato explains. “Dalke and Weddle bring so much spirit to these roles.”
The Last Five Years opens this Friday, January 24th, at 8pm and runs Fridays and Saturdays for three weekends, closing on February 8th. Tickets are available online, and students or performers of any kind can purchase half-priced tickets. Prepare yourself for a heart-wrenching, painfully honest look at a complicated love and the complex journey of following one’s dreams, all lovingly crafted and beautifully acted.
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