by Erin McIntyre
Lost Nation Theater (LNT) has long been a leader in bringing the performing arts to new audiences, and the organization’s latest innovations are no exception. Lost Nation announced two new initiatives last week aimed at attracting a broader theater-going audience: LNTix and LNT Afterhours.
LNTix is a free program that allows 18-to-40-year-olds to purchase reduced-price tickets to mainstage productions. In conjunction with LNTix, and through a partnership with The Family Center of Washington County, the theater will also provide free childcare at one matinee performance of each show.
LNT Afterhours is an opportunity to meet and mingle with cast, crew and other audience members after a show, while taking advantage of discounts at local night spots. After the May 8 preview of Lost Nation’s current production, The Last 5 Years, audience members enjoyed a cabaret-style sing-along at The North Branch Café. The May 15 performance will be followed by an LNT Afterhours event at Sweet Melissa’s on Langdon Street in Montpelier.
It’s no accident that Lost Nation is launching LNTix and LNT Afterhours with this production of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last 5 Years. The award-winning musical chronicles the relationship of a young couple, Jamie and Cathy, as they navigate life, love and career. The themes are accessible to people of all ages, and theater-goers in their 20s and 30s will particularly appreciate the contemporary feel of the score.
Musical theater fans are likely familiar with the 2002 original cast recording featuring Sherie Rene Scott and Norbert Leo Butz, or the 2013 revival recording with Betsy Wolfe and Adam Kantor. Either album is excellent preparation for those who want to familiarize themselves with the music. The story follows Jamie’s side of the relationship from beginning to end, while Cathy’s journey goes the other way—we live her story from the end of the relationship to the beginning. Jamie (Aaron Aubrey) and Cathy (Mary McNulty) exist together in the same space and time for just a few moments in the middle of the show (“The Next Ten Minutes”).
Aubrey portrays Jamie, the brilliant writer, with just enough playfulness that it’s impossible not to like him, despite the character’s tendency to let career take priority over his relationship with Cathy. His voice is perfectly suited to this role, and he navigates with ease the range of vocal styles required by the score. McNulty’s portrayal of Cathy, the barely-making-it stage actress, is emotionally spot on. Her gentle voice is pleasant throughout, and at the May 8 preview she delivered several moments of unexpected vocal power that left the audience wanting more.
Producing Artistic Director Kathleen Keenan has staged this production beautifully. Lost Nation’s intimate space (although acoustically challenging at times) is a perfect visual fit for this story. Stephen W. Jones’ musical direction is impeccable, and the piano and violin musical arrangement of the score works quite well. Lost Nation’s production offers insight into the humor and pain of young love, and audience members can expect some good laughs (and perhaps a few tears).
The Last 5 Years (rated PG-13) runs Thursdays through Sundays through May 18 at the City Hall Arts Center in Montpelier. Visit LostNationTheater.org for additional information.
This article originally appeared on BroadwayWorld.com.