Katie Weston is set to open her self produced version of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last 5 Years next week at the MC Showroom in Prahran.
TP: TL5Y is a long time coming for you. What made you want to get the show up in the first place and what journey have you been on to get it to this stage?
Katie: The first statement is very true, it has been a long time coming. I laugh that it’s actually been a process of successes, knock backs, follow-throughs, team and venue changes, road-blocks and driven persistence over the last five years (ha!) that has finally allowed my original staging concept and this special production to shine. The Last Five Years was the first musical that I ever connected to on an all encompassing, artistic, aesthetic and emotional level. I didn’t know you could approach conversational singing that way. I didn’t know raw string arrangements and diatonic dissonance (getting technical now…) could enhance the musical tapestry in such a way that I just had to digest more. The musical inspired me as a young singer, actor and composer and definitely shaped me into the writer and performer I am today. I am extremely proud to have persisted against all odds and brought together a team of truly amazing humans who share the same passion, musicality and insight into this beautiful work by Jason Robert Brown.
TP: For those who don’t know the show – What’s it about?
Katie: Written by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Songs For A New World), the story explores a five-year relationship between Jamie Wellerstein, a rising novelist, and Cathy Hiatt, a struggling actress. The show uses a form of storytelling in which Cathy’s story is told in reverse chronological order (beginning the show at the end of the marriage), and Jamie’s is told in chronological order (starting just after the couple have first met).
TP: What’s the creative concept?
Katie: Well I’m glad you asked! Continuing on from outlining the traditional storytelling devices used in this show, in this production, our brilliant James Cutler (director) has cleverly established and possibly disguised additional parallel timeline narratives for both characters throughout the piece. I know that when I am in rehearsals it feels like we’re in a dream within dream within a dream – sort of like The Last 5 Years meets Inception? (Carry your totem with you at all times!) And of course, the original creative concept, one that I’ve been pursuing for years, has come to fruition with both characters playing essential moments within the score on multiple musical instruments, throughout the narrative, directly relating to their connection with the music, context and each other. As far as we know, The Last 5 Years has never been presented in this way and we just couldn’t be more excited to give the piece a well deserved injection of originality and edge. I am so blessed to be working with the incredibly talented and handsome Andrew Kroenert who is the embodiment of this concept. The guy can do anything.
TP: How have rehearsals been? What aspects of the show and your role are you finding challenging?
Katie: Rehearsals have been minimal but thorough and intensive leading up to production week next week. It’s a huge sing personally for me, probably the most challenging I’ve ever performed in one show. It’s not a problem, it’s just a challenge (it’s a challenge!)… one that I’m more than happy to take on, especially with the guide of a good vocal performance and workload management plan. I’ve just adored working with Andy who completely understands the character and concept from his own place of passion for the show and it’s music. With director James, we’ve also discussed the difficulty in not allowing my character Cathy to be perceived as constantly weaker than Jamie and the tendency for the show itself to subjectively tiptoe into realms of antifeminist flavours. Workshopping clever devices to divert these tendencies has been eye opening as an actor and director.
TP: What’s your background?
Katie: Melbourne girl born and bred. Started piano lessons at an early age. Learnt the etiquette of performance through many years with the Australian Girls Choir while writing angsty pop songs for bands during high school. Went on to be a slave to the tertiary system, going through phases of what I wanted to train in. Highlights include casting a young Chris Hemsworth in my final short film at Open Channel Film School, when I wanted to be a film director. I completed the full time course at The National Theatre, training in Music Theatre Performance. Then I went back to music – completing a Adv.Dip of Jazz & Contemporary Music Performance from NMIT, a Bachelor of Music Composition from the Victorian College of the Arts and a Masters in Music Performance & Teaching from Melbourne Conservatorium of Music at Melbourne University, majoring in Contemporary/Music Theatre Voice. In amongst all of that, I have a background in live music, gigging around Australia as a lead singer and keyboardist. I also get around the Melbourne music theatre scene, on and off stage, giving time and energy to shows and creatives that I connect with on a aesthetic and intrinsic level – or at least try to! I’m also a judge and music director for Take The Mic Australia singing competitions and showcases, have released an original pop-rock EP “Say The Word” on iTunes and Spotify (check it out!) and cannot wait to re-focus my energy on my latest original musical work as a composer – “Falling Forward”.
TP: What roles are on your bucket list?
Katie: I’ve been lucky enough to tick many of my bucket list roles off my list including Roxie Hart, Sally Bowles, Woman #2 from Songs For a New World and Maureen from Rent. I got very close to playing my bucket list role of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, having the opportunity to give Mary Magdalene a similar, fiery edge. Many of my theatre mates know that I have a thing for wanting to tackle particular male roles for a number of reasons. I would do anything to have a crack at Mark form Rent, Melchior from Spring Awakening and of course, Evan Hanson. But, roles that are still on my radar are definitely Diana from Next To Normal, Heidi from Dear Evan Hanson, Fantine from Les Mis, Girl from Once, Lucy from Jekyll & Hyde and Cathy from The Last Five Years – ticking that one off next week!
TP: What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
Katie: Train. Be passionate. Always care about the work you are doing. Be a generous actor. Learn and apply from every experience. Relish and own every heightened moment.
TP: Who’s your favorite performer?
Katie: These performers inspire me beyond belief: Brandon Boyd (lead singer/songwriter of US alternative rock band Incubus), Robin Wright (actress – House of Cards), Australia’s own John Farnham and hands down the best performance by an actor in a musical, male or female, I have ever witnessed was Ben Platt’s Evan in Dear Evan Hanson.
TP: What on stage habit to you detest most?
Katie: Missed opportunities by directors and poor acting choices. Subjective, but that’s the question.
TP: What aspect of a show do you deem as absolutely critical to its success?
Katie: Oooh. Good question. So many factors contribute. Personally, I find once we start running a show, there is (of course) a momentum of flow that is critical to not only solidify your logistical track as a performer, but allows the physical, emotional and mental paths of your performance to be realised and put up to the stamina test.
TP: What show do you hope makes it to Australia?
Katie: There’s a newly developed West End/Broadway production of Sunday In The Park With George that I would love to see come to Australia. The staging concept using projections is mesmerising.
TP: Which show breaks your heart?
Katie: Dear Evan Hanson.
TP: Which show could you watch over and over?
Katie: Dear Evan Hanson, Next To Normal, Spring Awakening and Parade.
TP: Which aspect of performing have you struggled with most?
Katie: Not second guessing myself and managing my professional vocal workload to be able to perform at my best when I need to. I’ve also had personal struggles with the time commitment and energy required to do what I do. “I can’t I have rehearsal, I have a gig, I have to teach” is my life. It’s my job, my passion and my choice as an artist.
The Last 5 Years Opens on November 21 and plays until November 26. To book CLICK HERE