Staples theater company presents musical for live and streaming audience

The musical “The Last Five Years,” is a small production making it COVID-19 friendly where exposure of the virus is limited. The show is 90 minutes long and there will be no intermission, to make people’s time in the auditorium shorter. Audience members will be required to wear masks is they attend in person.

Travis Chaput , president of Lamplighter Community Theatre Board of directors and Nicole Rothleutner at pose at rehearsal Tuesday, Oct. 27. The Last Five Years (written and composed by Jason Robert Brown) will be performing at Landmark Inn in Staples November 12-15. The performances on Thursday, November 12, Friday, November 13, and Saturday, November 14 are at 7:30 p.m. The performance on Sunday, November 15 will be at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices are $12.00. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

It’s a musical about two New Yorkers in their 20s who fall in and out of love over the course of five years.

Lamplighter Community Theatre is opening its doors to present “The Last Five Years,” Nov. 12-15 at the Landmark Inn in Staples. The musical will be performed four times live to a limited audience and it also will be streamed online. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12-14 and a 2 p.m. matinee Nov. 15. Tickets are $12 to see it in person and/or a livestreaming show to be watched in the comforts of one’s home. Tickets are available at .

The theater company will only allow 50 people in the doors for each show, as it is abiding by Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Audience members also must wear a mask and the seats will be spaced out to allow 6 feet for social distancing.


Karla Johnson, the Brainerd High School theater director, is directing the musical, her first time directing a play outside of the high school. Travis Chaput, president of the Lamplighter Community Theater Board of Directors, approached Johnson about directing the play.

“I was extremely excited because this was a musical that I was really into when I was in high school because it had recently come out and I was obsessed with the music,” Johnson said.

“‘The Last Five Years’ is almost entirely sung. There's very little dialogue. There's a few conversations where the characters are on their phone, but the majority of it is sung.

“Travis Chaput was the one who honestly brought this to the ... the Lamplighters Theater board and I'm very grateful that he thought to call me because I feel very honored to be working with such a talented cast and vocal director.”

“The Last Five Years,” written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, quickly came to Chaput’s mind because the production is small, making it COVID-19 friendly where exposure of the virus is limited. The show is 90 minutes long and there will be no intermission, to make people’s time in the auditorium shorter.

The musical cast two actors — Chaput, who plays Jamie Wellerstein, and Nicole Rothleutner, who plays Cathy Haitt. Emily-Rose Severson is the vocal director.

“It’s just the four of us so for contact tracing and with exposure we really wanted to limit contact,” Johnson said.

Chaput, who was involved in Central Lakes College outdoor theater shows this past summer, wanted to try to bring something to the Lamplighter stage. Chaput said the Staples theater company was in the works of doing a show last spring but when COVID-19 hit the company had to cancel. The theater company hosted its summer theater camp where youths were socially distanced playing theater games.


“We really wanted to hit the ground running this fall,” Chaput said. “We want to provide something for people to come to see in person with a socially distant audience. For the first time we're also actually offering this as a livestreamed event for people so if you're not feeling safe about coming in person you can purchase a ticket online. It gives you a link and you can watch us from the comfort of your own home.”

Chaput encourages people to purchase tickets in advance if they plan to watch it in person to make sure they get a seat.

Johnson said the play revolves around how the two characters, Jamie and Cathy, met, their relationship and the nuances between the couple.

“I really encourage people that enjoy musicals to come because I think they would like it because, like I said, it's almost all sung,” Johnson said. “But also there's some very comical parts as well. Jamie especially has some very comical moments. His character is very confident and he's a very talented young author, and he becomes very popular at a young age and well renowned. Cathy is also very young and she is trying to get started on her acting career. And, unlike Jamie, Cathy has some challenges because of the competition of the actual acting career so it's really interesting to see how those two characters grow, and sometimes they grow together but there are also moments where they grow apart.”

Chaput, who also is the creator and host of “I Can’t I Have Rehearsal,” a podcast for The Creative Visionary, said the most interesting part of the plot is it is told from two different points of view at two different times.

“So my point of view of the story is told from the beginning of the relationship and I basically sing my way to the end and Cathy does just the opposite,” Chaput said. “She's just found out that I had left and she sings all the way to the beginning of the relationship where she's just sharing first kiss with Jamie.”

This is not the first time Chaput and Rothleutner have been involved in a production together. In fact, this upcoming show marks their 10th show together. They both were cast members of “Beauty and The Beast,” “Legally Blonde,” “Spamalot,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Seussical;” “The Addams Family” and “Church Basement Ladies,” Chaput was the stage manager and Rothleutner was a cast member; “The Little Mermaid,” Chaput was the director and Rothleutner was a cast member; and “Marvelous Wonderettes,” they were co-directors.

“Our stage chemistry has always been great and this show is going to be a real test for us as actors,” Chaput said.


Chaput, Rothleutner and Severson worked together over the summer so they already had been wearing masks and were socially distant while rehearsing past plays so they had already been in the same circles.

“Karla is a teacher and is being very safe,” Chaput said. “With her limited exposure to people just with her students and everything so the four of us just made a lot of sense. Just to keep it safe and not have to have a cattle call audition where all these people were coming in to try out for the play.”

Rothleutner said it is an interesting play as it’s just the two cast members who are carrying the show out on stage. Typically, Chaput added, there is a whole cast behind the stage so if an actor forgets a line or lyric, they can pick it up for that person.

“A majority of our songs are solos that move back and forth so if I'm standing out here and Nicole is standing out here and we forget the lyric we just have to listen until we can pick the song up again,” Chaput said. “There really is nobody here to save us. We're only on stage together for one song where we're actually singing together and then the other two times we're not even really paying attention to each other, we're just both in the scene.”

Severson is new to the vocal director scene. Severson, a 2020 Brainerd High School graduate, said it has been a humbling experience to be part of the theater production.

“I did a little (vocal directing) in high school and when Travis reached out to me ... I said, ‘Are you sure?’” Severson said with a smile. “He said ‘Yes’ and it’s been super fun. I’m working with two very, very talented individuals so it's really not a lot of work for me. I just plunk a few notes out here and there, clock out some rhythms, but they've pretty much got it on their own.

“It’s been super exciting to work with Ms. J (Johnson) because we worked together in high school and she was my high school director for four years. ... It’s been interesting to work with people who were your co-workers in different shows, but now you're directing them and it's kind of like, oh you're 16 years older than me, I don't know why you're listening to me.”

Chaput said Severson knows more than they know.


“Emily did a great job, when we were doing the two shows this last summer,” Chaput said. “The developer director we had was also starring in the show that I was directing. So there's a point in the rehearsal process where we kind of had to pull him out, because we needed him full time. Emily was seamlessly able to kind of step in and take over for him and help the rest of the girls brush up on their music and get them to where they need to be for their performances. She really showed a lot of promise when she went through that process so it was a very easy decision to reach out to her for this. This show’s music is extremely complicated so she's not giving herself enough credit.”

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at or 218-855-5851. Follow me at on Twitter.

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