Hit musical show looks at love's highs and lows
A new production of hit musical The Last Five Years stars Co Tyrone Les Mis actor Fra Fee and rising star Amy Lennox. They talk to Brian Campbell
ONE subtitle for Blunt Fringe's new show The Last Five Years could be `When Courfeyrac met Doralee'.
Granted, it isn't very catchy, but the two actors in the play are Co Tyrone actor Fra Fee – who played Courfeyrac in the hit 2012 film Les Miserables – and Scottish stage star Amy Lennox, who last took to a stage in Belfast as Doralee Rhodes in the musical 9 to 5 two years ago.
Lennox took on the role made famous by Dolly Parton in the 1980 film 9 to 5 and after her Belfast run in The Last Five Years she will appear in the hit musical Kinky Boots in London from August.
Fee made his name in the Oscar-winning Les Mis and he admits he learned a lot from co-star Eddie Redmayne on set. “Well Eddie's now an Oscar winner [for The Theory of Everything] and he's an incredible actor. I definitely learned the most about screen acting just from watching him and I'm still in touch with him.”
The Dungannon man, who has been based in London for eight years, says he doesn't hear much from fellow Les Mis actor Russell Crowe. “He was in Dublin in March when I was there doing a play. He was promoting his film, but our paths didn't cross,” he says.
The Last Five Years is a 2001 musical written by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown and tells the story of Cathy and Jamie's courtship and ill-fated marriage over five years. It was made into a Hollywood film starring Anna Kendrick. Released in April this year, it received positive reviews and was described as "a lean mean musical machine" by The Guardian.
Jamie is an up-and-coming writer and Cathy is a struggling actress trying out for parts and – funnily enough – one of Cathy's songs features the lines, “Why am I working so hard? These are the people who cast Russell Crowe in a musical...”
Fee's last job was in Romeo and Juliet at the Gate Theatre in Dublin earlier this year. He enjoyed playing the iconic lead role in the play.
“I hadn't studied it at school and I'd never done Shakespeare professionally before. I did a bit at drama college. I loved it. It was a real meaty role and I couldn't say no to it. It's one of those roles that has an expiry date, so I think I got in there just in time.”
He says he is “extremely excited” about The Last Five Years coming to the Lyric, having never performed in the venue before.
“It's a show that I've loved since I was at university. Anyone who's been in a relationship can understand the highs and lows. It's just two people on stage and for the majority of it they're separate, because they have a different timeline: one begins at the end of the story and one begins at the beginning, so they meet in the middle.
“It's a series of songs and each one is like a character. It's moving and funny and the music is wonderful. To be doing it in Belfast is an added bonus.”
London-based Aberdeen native Lennox says she's looking forward to getting back to Belfast. “We had a great time when I was over for 9 to 5. We did the Titanic museum and the Giant's Causeway; all the classics," she says.
Fee says Lennox is “a brilliant actress and pretty perfect for this part”. “It's just a wonderful story,” he says. “I haven't seen the Anna Kendrick movie; I'll save that for when we finish.”
Lennox will return to London to start work on Kinky Boots after her Belfast run. She says her role in another musical, Legally Blonde, was a great experience.
“It was an amazing opportunity and I learnt a lot. I was covering Sheridan Smith, who has gone on to do ridiculously amazing things.”
She had a small role in the 2010 film Never Let Me Go (with Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan) and says she would like to work on more films. Fee says his role in Les Mis has “opened many more doors” for him.
“It is a proper musical juggernaut and being part of the movie was a great experience. I'm very happy to be associated with it.”
He would like to work on period drama on film or TV.
“They suit my hair too,” he laughs.
:: The Last Five Years opens at the Lyric Theatre (Naughton Studio) in Belfast on Wednesday and runs until July 4 (LyricTheatre.co.uk).