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Wichita production of 'The Last Five Years' stars husband and wife actors

Courtesy photo

A local production of the acclaimed musical "The Last Five Years" by Jason Robert Brown opens on Thursday, August 17 at Roxy's Downtown. The two-person show tells the story of the rise and fall of a romantic relationship played, in this production, by a real-life husband and wife.

Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years” opens Thursday, Aug. 17, at Roxy’s Downtown and runs until September 2.

The musical, directed by Megan Upton-Tyner, tells the story of the rise and fall of a romantic relationship with a somewhat unusual structure. The show’s characters, Jamie (Paul Knapp) and Cathy (Felisha Trundle), are only briefly on stage together during the show and tell their stories in differing chronology.

Jamie and Cathy are played by the real-life husband wife duo of Knapp and Trundle, who met several years ago while in college. Since then, Knapp has taken a hiatus from the stage to practice law but says that he’s happy for the return, while Trundle has continued to perform in a variety of productions.

The pair recently visited the KMUW studios to discuss the show and how they’ve navigated it as husband and wife.

Interview Highlights

Can you take me through the story of “The Last Five Years”? 

Paul Knapp: “The Last Five Years” is, at its core, the story of a relationship that unfolds over five years, from basically the time that [the couple meets] until the time that, unfortunately, they get divorced. It’s told from two directions — Jamie, who is the lead male, his point of view is going forward in time, from year one to year five. Cathy is backwards, from the divorce to where we meet. The stories line up only in the center, at our wedding, so there’s only one time that we actually even really interact on stage and sing together on stage. It’s right in the middle. Other than that our timelines are going crisscross, and it signifies how they just missed each other in the timing of their [lives] and their relationship.

What’s it like to be in a show with that strange chronology? 

Felisha Trundle: It’s definitely harder for Cathy’s role just because you’re starting at the heightened part of the musical. You’re at the very end of the relationship. She finds the letter, and everything’s over. You have to work your way back to happiness. For me, it’s a lot of blocking him out throughout the show, so that way, when I am at the very end of the show and I’m [thinking], “This is awesome, I’m meeting him, it’s so great!” I can definitely not listen to what he's saying at all. [Laughs.] I’m someone who has a lot of emotions, so it tends to make me really sad. It’s definitely a lot harder for my role just because I’m working backwards through it instead of working forwards.

What was it about this show that made the two of you say, “We want to be part of this?” 

PK: I hadn’t been on stage in about seven years. The last time that I was on stage was when we met in undergrad. I took a turn, decided to go to law school, got my law degree, so I haven’t really had the time to perform at all in those seven years. When they said they were doing auditions for “The Last Five Years,” kind of last minute, two weeks before the audition, I told [Felisha], “I think I’m going to audition just to feel it again, just to see what it’s like to audition.”

Felisha has her masters in music, she’s very much a preparer, she prepares very well for auditions and things like that so she was a little taken aback by me deciding to do that.

FT: [Laughs.]

PK: So I didn’t think anything about it really and then I got the phone call from Rick [Bumgardner], the artistic director, who had said, “Just to let you know, we definitely chose your wife for Cathy and, after that, we decided we’d cast you for Jamie too. We think that it makes sense.”

Ordinarily, I would avoid the obvious question but I’ll put it out there: You’re married and you’re in a show together. What’s that like? 

FT: That’s how we met, was on the stage. I knew then and there. Every time that I would go to rehearsals I would have these butterflies that would go through me. I would try to look all cool, “I’m cool. I don’t like you. We’re fine.” I think that that’s still there when we’re on stage with each other. It’s just a different kind of butterfly feeling now. I love being on stage with him. I feel very secure, very confident. I feel very safe because I know that he’s going to be there for me.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.