BWW Interviews: A Conversation with the Production Team of Flip Theatre's THE LAST FIVE YEARS
There is a New Theatre Company in town and they hope to "flip" musical theatre on its side one production at a time. Flip Theatre Company, founded by long time friends Ben Bakken and John Lynn, believes the crowded Twin Cities theatre scene has room for one more theatre company. The idea to form a theater company has been talked about for years, but it wasn't until the two worked together last summer on the Children's Theatre Company's production of "RENT" that they decided it was time. Ben, an actor frequently featured in Chanhassen Dinner Theatre productions such as "Footloose" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" and John, a local voice coach who counts two time Tony nominated Broadway actress Laura Osnes as a former student; have chosen Jason Robert Brown's cult hit "The Last Five Years" as their debut production.
"The Last Five Years" explores a five-year relationship between Jamie Wellerstein, a rising novelist, and Cathy Hyatt, a struggling actress. The show was inspired by Brown's own failed marriage. Ben and John have tapped two actors looking to reintroduce themselves to Twin Cities theatre audiences. Britta Ollman has been cast as Cathy. Britta is a former child actress who grew up on Twin Cities stages. After attending NYU and experiencing the NYC theatre scene she has returned home to Minnesota. Bobby Gardner will step into the shoes of Jamie. Bobby is a Twin Cities native currently seen at The Brave New Workshop. He is looking to get back to his musical theatre roots.
The "flip" Ben and John are going for with "The Last Five Years" is to make the music more pop-rock inspired. To do this they have entrusted music director Jason Hansen. According to Ben, Jason has been "playing with the musical arrangements and infusing the guitar into the music more." Not only will there be a guitar, but a full band. "That was an area we didn't want to compromise. We could pare down the arrangements to just a piano, but there are certain songs in this show that are meant to have a guitar. They don't sound right with just a piano" acknowledged John.
The production will be directed by John, who as he puts it "has the whole show mapped out in my head". Ben was quick to point out John's directing will be another reintroduction to theatre audiences, "Everyone knows him as a voice coach. He coaches a lot of actors in the Twin Cities. He was even my voice coach in high school, but he is also a brilliant director. He has an excellent vision for this show and all of the other shows we discussed before landing on this one."
"The Last Five Years" will be performed at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage in Uptown Minneapolis. The show runs October 30 - November 10. For more information or to purchase tickets visit Flip Theatre Company's website.