CGOA Stages starts new season: Two duos, and perspectives, take turns in musical ‘The Last Five Years’

ACTORS Will Thayer-Daugherty and Ashly Will, foreground in top photo, trade performance nights in “The Last Five Years” with Michelle Firsching and Noel Oishi.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
ACTORS Will Thayer-Daugherty and Ashly Will, foreground in top photo, trade performance nights in “The Last Five Years” with Michelle Firsching and Noel Oishi.

The Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association opens its 2017-2018 season with the musical “The Last Five Years.” Presented by Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association’s (CGOA) Stages theater ensemble, “The Last Five Years” is an intimate, two-person musical by Jason Robert Brown.

“The hook of the show,” said Director Mark Steighner, “is that it tells the story of a romantic relationship through time, but from the woman’s perspective, the show starts at the breakup while the man’s story begins at their first meeting. Their stories only cross once: when they get married.”


Noel Oishi sings in "The Last Five Years." On piano: Henry Kapp; cello: Michelle Edwards; keyboard: Mark Steighner; lights: Charlie Mortensen; sound: Harold McBain; set painting: Irene Fields; production coordinator: Emily Vawter.

With only two characters, each actor gets plenty of stage time and a wide variety of songs that cover an equally broad range of genres, from pop to jazz to a little klezmer. “There are many songs that are showstoppers from an acting and singing perspective,” Steighner added.

The CGOA production has two casts. CGOA newcomers Michele Firsching and Noel Oishi will star on Sept. 8-9 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 10 at 2 p.m., while returning actors Ashly Will and William Thayer-Dougherty will lead the second weekend, Sept. 14-16 at 7 p.m. All shows are at the Bingen Theater. Tickets are available at the door and through Tickets are $15 for adults (ages 18 and over) and $10 for students and children (10-17).


“The Last Five Years” kicks off a busy season of theater and music for CGOA; details can be found on the website: This is the second season for CGOA’s Stages theater company. The rest of the season includes “Waiting for Godot” (November), the musical “Passion” by Stephen Sondheim, the collection of one-acts called “All in the Timing” and the musical “Chicago.”

The show is rated “PG-13” for language.

Steighner notes that the play has a unique structural twist: Cathy tells the story of the relationship from the end to the beginning; Jaime tells the story from the beginning to the end. The the musical is a back-and-forth alternating song structure.

“While many of the songs are heartbreaking and emotionally raw, there are an equal number of upbeat and funny moments. The musical explores a wide range of emotions,” Steighner said. “Because of the structure, time is a major theme of the musical. The couple is out of synch with each other emotionally.”

Brown wrote the musical in 2002 on a commission from Lincoln Center. His previous musicals included “Parade” and “Songs From A New World.” “The Last Five Years” never made it to Broadway; it was a popular Off-Broadway show (with a revival in 2014) and is often performed by community and college theaters.

Last June’s “Spamalot” was a sell-out and audiences are encouraged to buy tickets early for “The Last Five Years.” Tickets are at the door or through

“Like we did with ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ in September 2016, this show has had a very short and concentrated rehearsal process that depends on the actors learning their parts before coming together for a handful of staging rehearsals and run-throughs,” Steighner said.

“This ‘instant musical’ process came about because so many company members were already involved in other summer theater productions and didn’t have time for a long rehearsal schedule.”

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