Off-Broadway's 'The Last Five Years' hits Indy

Posted by kbrueckmann on October 6, 2015

By R. Tyler Dague, Correspondent for The Indianapolis Star

What if you were given a role in Broadway's "Rent"? What if that were right out of college? For actor Adam Kantor, it was the start of a career on the New York stage.

After his star-making turn as Mark in the closing cast of “Rent,” Kantor continued to perform in shows such as fellow Tony Award-winners “Next to Normal” and “Avenue Q.” It was a chance postponement of another show, however, that allowed him to audition for the 2013 revival of “The Last Five Years,” composer Jason Robert Brown’s hit off-Broadway musical.

A full concert version of the show is headed to The Cabaret at the Columbia Club on Oct. 9 and 10.

An early encounter with Broadway inspired Kantor to pursue his dream of acting: when he was eight, he and his family attended “Fool Moon,” a show of vaudeville slapstick from actor/clowns Bill Irwin and David Shiner. Irwin came up to the box where Kantor was seated and whispered instructions for the supposedly wordless bit. Totally impromptu, the back and forth between him and Irwin caused the audience to laugh. Kantor was sold.

“I was part of the action,” Kantor recalled. “I think that moment was truly poignant because I was on the other side for a minute affecting people.”

Fast forward to 2015. Kantor has been a staple of the theater scene, playing Jamie off and on for two years. During that time, a film adaptation of “The Last Five Years” starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan brought the musical further national recognition. Since closing in New York, Kantor and Wolfe have taken the show to cities nationwide, most recently at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco in March.

“Usually, you do a show, and it closes and that’s the end of it,” Kantor explained. “But it’s easily produced in that it’s just the two of us, an actor and an actress. We can essentially do it with just a piano. Even with just those three players in just a concert format, you really get the emotional arc of the show.”

Despite its sparse staging, “The Last Five Years” is an almost completely sung-through musical with minimal dialogue. Wolfe and Kantor realized they needed a refresher after a seven-month break.

“[Rehearsing] was a lot of fun and also a little scary,” Kantor said. “There were definitely some lyrics that we realized that we needed to brush up on.”

The Cabaret’s concert version may be the last time the two will perform the material together, as Kantor has been cast as Motel the tailor in the latest Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Audience members will note that this performance will feature Jamie with a beard.) Still, Kantor is optimistic about returning to “The Last Five Years” with Wolfe in the future.

“We’re continually digging deeper and discovering more about these roles, about the music. Hopefully, we’ll continue to do it until we’re too old to play these characters.”

Tyler Dague is a 2015 Arts Journalism Fellow. The fellowship, funded partially by a National Endowment for the Arts grant, is a partnership between the Arts Council of Indianapolis and The Star.

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