The lines between love, music, and art have always been blurred. Whenever two musicians are dating, friends and family continually ask, "...so do you two perform together?"
An answer came quickly to Buffalo performing artists Christopher Wietig and Leah Schneider. Within months of meeting each other, the two were creating and launching New Buffalo Productions, a theatre production company and arts education advocacy organization. There was no question that they wanted to produce professional musical theatre in Buffalo. Their first project, a production of TONY award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown's THE LAST FIVE YEARS, will appear on stage this October. Leah and Chris had always separately wanted to perform the work but had never found a suitable 'partner in crime' to take on the project....until now.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a two person show, a unique story that follows the five year journey of a young couple's relationship. Cathy (played by Schneider), a struggling actress, begins the story as the relationship is ending and continues the timeline backwards. Jamie (played by Wietig), a writer, begins his storytelling in chronological order singing about the very first time they met. The dynamic couple travels through time, one side of the story moving forward and the other moving backwards. The characters cross paths at only one point in the show, finally sharing the same emotion at the same time, when they sing about their wedding day.
The musical style of the show is contemporary musical theatre and accompanied by a small chamber ensemble including piano, guitar, string bass, violin and cello. An array of musical styles are represented within the show and include classical, pop, jazz, swing, rock, folk, Latin and Klezmer.
It wasn't enough to just put the show up for a few days and let it run. Schneider and Wietig strove for more as they thought: how can we impact the Western New York theatre community and give to the next generation of young performers in the area?
The answer: bring the Tony award winning composer to Buffalo to attend the show and conduct a masterclass with local students. Negotiations got underway with Mr. Brown's management group and a deal was struck for just that.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS will run from October 11 - 14 (8PM except for Sunday at 3PM) at the Alleyway theatre in downtown Buffalo. There will be a VIP reception held at the theatre after the Friday October 12th performance where patrons will have a chance to meet the composer. Then, on Saturday October 13th, Jason Robert Brown will conduct a Broadway masterclass with six Western New York students. Students will be chosen by audition, preparing two contrasting musical theatre selections.
"When it's all said and done, theatre is not only about creating art on stage but how it directly effects the community" says Wietig, "as funding continues to decline, we need to remind students that the arts are not disposable and should not be eliminated from our communities and schools".
Tickets for the performances are $25 and are available online, over the phone, or at the box office one hour prior to curtain time.
For more information on the masterclass, tickets to the show, and to learn more about the mission of New Buffalo Productions, please visit the NBP website