Music & Nightlife

Broadway stars to perform cult musical ‘The Last Five Years’ in South Beach concert

‘The Last Five Years’ starring Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe.
‘The Last Five Years’ starring Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe. Getty Images/Tetra images RF; Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Adam Kantor knows about Miami audiences. After all, he used to be part of them.

Kantor now performs on Broadway. He’s played Motel in “Fiddler on the Roof,” and Mark in the final cast of “Rent.” But he hasn’t forgotten his time in Miami. When visiting his aunt and his grandmother, he calls it his “second home.”

Now Kantor is returning to Miami, but not in the audience. He’ll be living his dream of performing in Miami Beach, center stage, with fellow Broadway veteran Betsy Wolfe, who was most recently Cordelia in “Falsettos.”

Kantor and Wolfe will reunite at the Colony Theatre this Sunday evening to perform a concert version of the Jason Robert Brown musical “The Last Five Years,” a show they starred in together Off-Broadway in 2013.

We talked to Kantor, 30, and Wolfe, 34, about the show, what it has meant to them, their time in Miami, and what the future holds.

Have you been to the Miami area before?

Wolfe: Last year, I ended up going down and singing a couple songs with Jimmy Buffett for a “Broadway Across America” promotional event. That was my first time in Miami, and I remember immediately thinking we should definitely come down here and do “The Last Five Years.” We’re always on the hunt for places that we think would receive the show well, and it was such a beautiful place and it felt right. It took a while to plan, but we’re finally coming.

What’s your impression of the Miami performing arts scene?

Wolfe: The arts are very much alive down there, and it seemed to be a place that cultivated great performances and different types of music, so that was really exciting.

Kantor: Miami was a second home for me, so, coming down my entire life, throughout my life, I have been amazed seeing how the arts scene in Miami has just exploded. Every time I [came], there would be a new arts center, a new museum, a new gallery, a new theater company. It’s really amazing. We’re all really excited to be a part of this Miami arts explosion.

What are you looking forward to for your Miami debut?

Kantor: My aunt was prima ballerina for the Miami City Ballet, Marcia Sussman — Marcia Frantz now — and I have such fond memories of coming down. I’d go see theater with my grandma. Seeing the New World Symphony being built up, and the Arsht Center, and the Pérez Museum of Art, and I always dreamed of coming down and making my Miami debut. My grandma and my whole family from Florida would fly up to New York every time I was doing a show, and they’ve been so supportive. So it’s really nice to be able to come down and perform for them in their hometown and in my second home.

Do you think audiences are different from one city to the next?

Kantor: There’s always a slight difference, but the Miami audience, is a very New York-y crowd. A lot of people split their time. There are a lot of New York artists that end up in Miami, that work in Miami, so it feels like home.

Take us through the rehearsal. What did you just do to prepare for the show?

Wolfe: We first did the show back in 2013 and had to extend it three times…

Kantor: At Second Stage [Theatre] …

Wolfe: … because of such high demand. And, more importantly than that, it’s one of those shows that you love doing, as an actor. It’s so creatively fulfilling and such a rich personal experience, and throughout the years, Adam and I each, at stage doors, have just constantly had fans come up to us and tell us how much the show meant to them, that they were repeat fans, that they bought the CD.

Kantor: It has a cult following.

Wolfe: Yes, it very much has a cult following. And, so we realized not only do we know that it’s received so well, but we love to do it. We never stopped doing it. That’s the reality. We’ve ultimately never stopped rehearsing for this show, in a way. It’s been three years of performing here and there.

Kantor: Part of it is our compulsive desire to get as close to perfection as possible, knowing that we’ll never actually reach that point. It’s like a graph to infinity. This piece is such a mammoth challenge for any actor. It’s just the two of us singing one beast after another. And it’s the piece that’s studied, it’s kind of a touchstone of contemporary musical theater study. So, students all across the country look to this material and study it in college. And we are continually studying it and getting better and better at it, and it changes for us over time as well. The piece now is a different piece than it was for us in 2013. We just rehearsed, and we were remarking afterwards how certain things feel easier, certain things feel harder. It’s always different.

Wolfe: It’s such a gift to do this piece as the years go by, and continually learn, and, hopefully even the audience will see different things that they didn’t see before.

Why do you think that “The Last Five Years” is so popular with young people?

Kantor: It’s totally relatable to anyone who has ever been in love. First love occurs more in younger people. ... For young theater fans, this felt like a discovery because it was never on Broadway. It was this kind of cult piece, and it existed in its original form, ran a few months Off-Broadway. And then it popped up all over the place. The cast album made it popular, and it’s one of the most produced musicals for regional theaters and community theaters across the country and schools.

Wolfe: I first heard it when I was in college, as well, so a lot of that has to do with the accessibility that younger people have to it. We have such a diverse age obsessed with the show and the story that it tells is the writing. It might seem that this is a simple love story about people in their first relationship who go through young love together, but the themes and some of the scenarios and what resonates from breakups and what resonates from true love stays with you forever. And that’s really why we would have 90-year-olds come up to us and just bawl their eyes out and say, “Thank you for this story.”

Kantor: My grandma, who is 94, cannot get enough of it. We are actually in her apartment now, rehearsing. I have my New York grandma and my Miami grandma, and they both love the show and listen to it all the time.

Wolfe: And not just because Adam …

Kantor: They would love it even if I weren’t in it.

Tell us one thing about yourself that’ll introduce you to somebody who hasn’t heard of you before.

Kantor: We are really, really devoted to getting it right and to giving this material everything that we have so that an audience will feel really connected to it and to us.

Wolfe: I can truly give everything that I have, everything that I have ever wanted to give, in a role. I am able to explore through this role. When you find that in a piece, that is super-thrilling.

Kantor: You are seeing actors lay it all out there. They are going through the full range of human emotion and experience and vocal range. We hit the very bottom to the very top of both of our ranges. You go through everything. And, the audience gets to really go on that emotional roller-coaster.

With the show, you can see how much happens in five years. So, what do you hope to accomplish in the next five years? As an actor or as a person?

Wolfe: Should we have 30 more “Last Five Years” concerts?

Kantor: We hope to accomplish Chicago. We hope to accomplish Alaska. Alaska, would be good.

Wolfe: If I could ever fall in love with another show like I’ve fallen in love with this show, that would be a miracle. We now have done this show for about four years. So, it’s crazy to think this show has been in my life at least for five years. So, if I could have this kind of creativity and be this blessed to get to work with someone like Adam again in the next five years ... that’s truly just what you want, to keep growing as an artist. But hopefully the next five years will include, who knows, some more “Last Five Years” concerts.

Kantor: We each just bought our first apartments, we’re excited about that.

Wolfe: We’re adults.

Kantor: Yeah, we’re growing up, you know. We met on “The Last Five Years.”

Wolfe: Maybe we’ll make Jason write a musical called “The Next Five Years.”

Kantor: “The Next Five Years,” yeah.

If you go

▪ What: The Last Five Years in Concert

▪ Where: Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach

▪ When: 7 p.m. Sunday

▪ Tickets: $39-$70 at www.colonymb.org/lastfiveyears

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