Theatre 21 presents “The Last Five Years”

The final production of the semester showcases student talent, complex music and a thoughtful message.


Marlena Lang // THE CHIMES

Sophomore theatre major Brynn Nieuwenhuis and sophomore biological major Freddy William act on stage.

Lauren McBride, Staff Writer

(This story was originally published in print on Dec. 5, 2019).

In this first-ever student-directed musical, Theatre 21 tackles important topics of life, relationships and heartbreak. “The Last Five Years” brings unique qualities to the table with its small cast, intimate storyline and beautiful music. Through the show, the cast and crew hope to prompt discussions about relationships and the important things in life.


“The Last Five Years” tells the story of Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein as they navigate the ups and downs of their five-year-long relationship, while the show portrays the two moving in opposite directions in time. Cathy’s story begins at the end of their relationship, where she sings heartbreaking number “Still Hurting” and moves toward the beginning. Meanwhile, Jamie begins with an upbeat ballad called “Shiksa Goddess” immediately after the couple’s first date. The characters only cross paths once—the scene of their wedding.

Junior theatre major Micah Johnson, student director of the show, says audiences will form opinions about who is at fault for bringing the relationship to ruin, but they should pay close attention to both characters’ perspectives. Both Cathy and Jamie have flaws that pollute their relationship. Cathy is an actress who allows her insecurity and need for approval to put pressure on their relationship, while Jamie’s unending thirst for success prevents Cathy from being a priority in his life.

“They think of themselves as the hero in their own story without realizing that they have become the villain in the other person’s story,” Johnson said.


Directing a full-length musical with only two characters is a daunting task, but it also adds a deeper level of intimacy to the story. The challenge for Johnson is pulling emotion out of the actors when they have no one else to act off of. Out of the 14 songs included in the show, Cathy and Jamie join together in only one of them.  

Sophomore theatre major Brynn Nieuwenhuis and sophomore biological science major Freddy William face their own trials as the sole members of the cast. The greatest challenge for Nieuwenhuis is bringing out Cathy’s heartbroken anger toward her husband in the number “See I’m Smiling.” For William, he has to portray a character who cheats and cares more about his own success than about others.

“Jamie just wants to enjoy his life and have fun with all the parties that his job has and all the praise that he’s getting from different people,” William said. “That’s what he thrives off of more than his life at home with Cathy.”


In addition to enjoying an innovative show and stunning musical performances, the cast and crew hope audiences take away a very important message from “The Last Five Years.” The show emphasizes both the harsh truth that not everything works out the way you want it to and the hopeful truth that there is more to life than relationships.

“The question of, ‘What are you going to fight for?’ is really important,” said stage manager Allison Sugimoto, a junior communication studies major.

It’s a matter of figuring out your priorities and then fighting for what’s good.

All relationships have their ups and downs, but the show encourages the audience to accept others despite their flaws while finding the best qualities in people. The performances will cause audiences to think about what they are ultimately putting at the center of their lives.

“The Last Five Years” will be held in Theatre 21 from Dec. 6-8. Ticket prices start at $8 and can be purchased online.

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