BWW Interview: Rachel Holdman And Emilie Miller of THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Openstage Theatre Company
San Antonio's newest Theater, Openstage Theatre Company, is bringing Jason Robert Brown's THE LAST FIVE YEARS to life! Openstage is putting everything they have into sharing such a moving tale of love, following your dreams, and the consequences of the choices we make. The story follows the ups and downs of the relationship between Cathy Hiwatt, a young struggling actress in the Big Apple, and Jamie Wellerstein, a talented writer on the brink of success. BWW had the privilege to sit down with Rachel Holdman, the music director and co-founder of Openstage, as well as Emilie Miller who plays Cathy, to get a glimpse behind the scenes of the upcoming production.
What made you choose THE LAST FIVE YEARS as Openstage Theatre Company's first show?
Rachel Holdman: It's funny. I don't think we chose it, I think it chose us. [Emilie and I] had just been working on it we were probably going to do it concert style, nothing really fancy. But as I think we were working on it, both of us really fell in love with the music. I've been introduced to the music ten years ago... and the very first song I heard was "Nobody needs to know" and the second I heard it, I just fell in love with it because it is just so musically interesting... Jason Robert Brown is a smart composer. You can tell that early on. I think it picked us because we fell in love with the story and we fell in love with these characters and so when we decided very quickly how much we loved this musical that's the moment we decided we wanted to start this theatre company. So I think what really makes our theatre company interesting and special, is that we didn't start a theatre company just to start a theatre company. We started it because we wanted to produce this musical and we wanted to do it in more than a concert-style. We wanted to put in on a [stage] with the lights, with the set, we wanted to do it justice and a theater company allowed us to do that.
Can you tell us a little bit about THE LAST FIVE YEARS?
Rachel Holdman: It's a musical that I think is extremely relatable for almost every young adult and up. It's about the difficulties and the joys of a relationship. It is about a man and a woman who meet and start dating and fall in love and get married and they struggle with marriage and sadly their relationship, spoiler alert, does not end well. All we know is that Jamie walks out on their marriage. We don't really know if their marriage is over if he is divorcing her, or what. We're just kind of left with him leaving his wedding ring on the desk and that's kind of it. I think what's interesting about it-what I like about it- is that you see these snapshots of moments in time, you don't really get a full story. It's not like a novel where you see all of it, you just see pictures. And you get such small moments that it is like every person that has an argument that they can be like yes, I've said something I've regretted and yes someone has hurt me like that. Or you see the joy at that moment where you're like, yes I remember that first date or that moment where they made you laugh like that or they made you smile. You know that feeling of joy because you're like this is my person. I choose you. I'm making this choice. And to me, that's what this musical is about. It is about life and the choices we make and the person that we choose to do it with. And I think there's really not a person on this earth that can't relate to that and the feelings that come with it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I think we all can understand that.
You play Cathy in the show. In what ways are you similar to her and in what ways are you different?
Emilie Miller: I am similar in the fact that I really would love to be professional in acting on broadway. It's never going to happen-I'm a little past my prime, but it has always been a dream. I feel like I needed to start at 12 and I'm not there but those dreams of having that life and living that life are very similar. We have similar personality quirks, I'll put it that way. We both struggle a little bit with self-esteem and that influences some of our choices both in life and in the show.
I think one way we are very different is that Cathy had the courage to move to New York and try that life and I've never been able to get that brave to do it. I like my safe little life here in the San Antonio area. I like doing [theatre] for fun and I'm afraid at what making this a professional job would do, if the struggle to make it would be too much and kind of suck the fun out of it... That part of Cathy amazes me for what she decided to do and how hard she pushed and how hard she tries. No matter the struggle that she faces she didn't quit. She didn't stop trying no matter how many times she was told no or got rejected.
What do you think the audience can expect from the show? Is there a message that they can take away from it?
Emilie Miller: I think they can expect a little bit of a roller coaster. I think you're going to be up and down... Bring some tissues if you're a crier. But there's some good stuff and a lot of it can be applied to normal life. It's not just all about a struggling actress and a writer on his way to fame. You can replace those dreams with whatever you want in your life. Some people, I think are just blessed with rapid success while others work their butts off and they don't seem to make any progress or progress is different than they expected. And in this show, it is Broadway and writing novels and that life and how that luck and that work ethic and those choices take you in the path that you go. And just seeing how your dreams can fit and work off... And just kind of reflect on those moments in your life, like proposals and weddings and maybe interesting choices or things that could have been interesting choices and you made a different one. Maybe you made a better choice and this is what could have happened... There's life, relationships, and everything that comes with it, that is just so real and relevant. It will be good to just sit and take a break from life. I like to view this as being somebody else for a little bit. You get to feel it but you don't have to necessarily live with the consequences, which is good and bad sometimes.
I really love this show. I always have... Part of why is I've lived the struggling actress life and a lot of that is really real and very personal. My husband is also a very talented writer and so there is a part of me that's afraid to imitate life that's so real... It's like seeing part of your life put to music. I feel it very deeply and I hope the audience gets the chance to feel that too.
Don't miss OpenStage Theatre Company's THE LAST FIVE YEARS playing November 15th and 16th, 2019 at 7:30 pm and November 17th at 2 pm. The theatre is located at 501 W Cesar E Chaves Blvd. For tickets visit the theatre's website.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Photo