Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years is a beautifully unique piece of theatre. With two concurrent storylines playing out at once, we follow Cathy and Jamie’s relationship from its start to its end… and back to its start. Not only is it unique in its structure, but it’s a two hander, and the pair only ever directly interact during one song in the middle of the show.
TL5Y has been a staple of the independent theatre scene since its initial premiere, and even garnered a film adaptation with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. Now, as music theatre slowly returns to Australia, The Mitchell Old Company are set to premiere the show as their debut production in February.
The company was founded by Mitchell, a 19 year old upcoming Theatre Producer, Musical Director and Music Educator. Currently studying a Bachelor of Music Education at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Mitchell is already making waves within the Live Entertainment Industry. In 2019, Mitchell directed and produced his first Cabaret show entitled “The Jazz Cafe” which provided a professional opportunity to dozens of emerging artists within Sydney. Mitchell has a passion for empowering young professionals to achieve their goals by providing professional environments where they can continue to grow their craft.
Why did you decide on The Last Five Years as your premiere production?
Mitchell: Well, I’m obviously starting out. I was looking for something that was small enough to really sink my teeth into whilst still providing myself with an opportunity to musical direct and direct a quality text. So when you limit your cast size to under 5, you lose a lot of the more well-known musicals – but then I stumbled across my cast and the choice was clear. I work with Hannah Alexander, our leading lady – we both teach at the Dural Music Centre. So after meeting her and talking to her about the crazy idea that I had, she was like “well, my partner is a phenomenal musical theatre artists as well, we live in the same household, we don’t have to social distance or anything… maybe this could work out.” It was from there that our musical grew, with a pair of actors who had the intimacy and chemistry of a couple already.
Are you doing anything new or different with the production?
Mitchell: Well we’re not exactly reinventing the wheel with this show as the context that it sits in has no need to be corrupted. Unlike other productions however, we are incorporating the orchestra into the show a lot more. For most of the show it’s just one person on stage… a stage can feel very big when it’s just… you. So we’ve created multiple opportunities within the show for the actors to bounce off the orchestra which I think also contributes to our 9 person ensemble sound. I don’t like thinking of the show as a 2 hander, rather with an ensemble of 9 – and we all must move as one even when our characters cannot.
So not only did you start The Mitchell Old Company, but you’re also directing and music directing the show – is this your first time doing these?
Mitchell: After graduating high school in 2019, I was on the hunt for an assistant musical director position, with the plan that I would move my way up through the community scene and further into more professional contexts. So although writing to many theatre companies, I was not getting a lot traction due to my lack of experience. Then COVID hit and kind of but everything on hold for a bit, until I was like, “well, screw it, why not? I’ll just create my own experience.” So I started my own company and secured the rights for my first musical. With a one man creative team, I jumped in head first and have been learning so much along the way!
Is the goal for the Mitchell Old Company to eventually produce big shows?
Mitchell: I’m thinking so, in the future. In the immediate future however, I’m looking forward to hosting some cabaret events, in concert musicals and more niche shows like The Last Five Years. So that’s where we are hopefully headed and I will take more of a producing role rather than a leading creative role. Although producing larger shows is something I am keen to do, maintaining the integrity of the art is something I am constantly thinking about and something that I feel many larger productions walk the line on. However fundamentally, my primary goal is to create opportunities for emerging artists to build up professional experience and I look forward to working with more young people in the future.
What have been the most challenging and the most exciting parts of setting up a company and mounting a production?
Mitchell: Well as I mentioned earlier, the financial aspect of the process has been daunting as it was 100% funded by myself with the exception of a few corporate sponsors. So although it has been a large financial risk, I figure I’m young – so now is the time to take the risks! I’ve put my money into something that I’m passionate about and something that I absolutely believe in. It’s allowed me to get my name out there a little bit more and to keep creating connections within the industry which has been terrific. Overall, it has been such a fantastic experience and I have facilitated growth within not only the artists that I’m working with but myself as well. I’ve grown as a musical director considerably and started to find my way as a director. The producing side is something that I’ve always been confident with and at the end of the day if it doesn’t work out it’s all on my shoulders. However, I have an amazing cast, orchestra and production team who have been incredibly supportive and all of whom I’m incredibly grateful for.
The Last Five Years runs at the Pioneer Theatre, Sydney, from February 11th to 14th.
The production will also be available for worldwide streaming on February 20th.
For tickets and more information, please visit www.mitchellold.com.au