In Part One of a series of interviews with the cast of Metropolitan Youth Arts Theatre’s The Last Five Years, meet Ben Cherington.
Sam: Introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform or direct on our local stages.
Ben: I’m Ben Cherington, a junior at Metropolitan School of the Arts. In addition to many performances with Metropolitan, I have performed on the stages of the Little Theatre of Alexandria, McLean Community Players, and Theatre Lab.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to him?
I play Jamie Wellerstein in The Last Five Years. We have many similarities, including the fact that we are both very youthful and don’t like to take life too seriously, even when the situation may call for it. In addition that, we’re both Jewish.
What is it about your character that audiences will like and what may they not like?
I think audiences will have a fun time with me when I’m happy and energetic. They may not like me by the end of the show (or even the beginning, in Kathy’s case) because as much as I hate to say it, Jamie is the one who is in the wrong.
What do we learn about your character during your songs?
You learn everything you could possible want to know about a person. You learn the parts of him that are hopeful and vibrant and fun, as well as the moments of the show when his anger and childishness come out.
What have been some of the challenges learning and preparing for your role and how did your director help you to solve these challenges?
Coming into this project, I was really nervous about being able to convey my age. Whether I like it or not, I will come across as a teenager to the audience. Chad Vann, my director, has helped me to be better equipped with the tools I need to use my age to enhance aspects of Jamie, rather than try to mask who I really am.
Which song that you don’t sing is your favorite?
My favorite song of Cathy’s is “A Summer in Ohio.” It’s the first song I ever heard from the show, and it’s what made me curious enough to look more into The Last 5 Years. It’s so catchy and witty and funny and I think it’s the song that best shows the intelligence with which Jason Robert Brown has written this score.
How would you describe the score of The Last Five Years?
This score has everything. The spontaneity of it is what conveys the moods that the show so cleverly displays. It has subtle artistic gems of all different genres, and brilliantly coded wordplay. Finding the deliberateness of each lyric and motif is the key.
What have you learned about yourself as an actor/singer during this experience?
More than anything, I’ve learned to use what I can offer to play a part. I shouldn’t have to access things I don’t connect to or feel a personal relationship with.
Why should theatregoers come to see this production, and what makes it so unique and special?
Theatregoers should see this production because more than most works of musical theatre, it makes you think. There is so much hidden meaning that Jason Robert Brown has given us the opportunity to try and decipher.
The Last Five Years plays from January 16-18, 2015 at Metropolitan Youth Arts Theatre performing at Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H Street, NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.