Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Opens Jason Robert Brown’s Acclaimed Musical The Last Five Years

en flag
es flag

Center Valley, PA: June 11, 2024—Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival presents Jason Robert Brown’s award-winning musical The Last Five Years, previewing June 12 and 13, opening on Friday, June 14, and running through June 30, in the intimate Schubert Theatre at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of DeSales University.

This emotionally moving musical, often referred to as a “two-hander,” tells the story of two people who fall in and out of love over five years from the individual perspectives of the couple Cathy and Jamie, played by Chani Wereley and Benjamin Lurye. Both members of the Actors’ Equity Union, Wereley’s regional credits include roles at Signature Theatre, Folger Theatre, Kennedy Center, and most recently Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Olney Theatre Center. Lurye’s recent roles include Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza at Houston’s Opera in the Heights, Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd at Theatre Under the Stars, and Max in A Comedy of Tenors at Bristol Riverside Theatre. He has also appeared at the Signature Theatre, Ford Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, and Toby’s Dinner Theatre, among others.

Both Wereley and Lurye have previously worked with the director of the production Jason King Jones, PSF’s Artistic Director, who directed last season’s critically acclaimed production of The Tempest, following his tenure as senior associate artistic director at Maryland’s Olney Theatre Center, where he was also artistic director of the National Players, the country’s longest-running touring theater company.

The Music Director of the production, Samuel Thorne Bagalá, joins the creative team of The Last Five Years coming directly from a run of the production with Fulton Theatre in Lancaster. Bagalá bring his directorial expertise from projects in New York including Days of Wine & RosesHamiltonRadio City Christmas Spectacular, and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. Bagalá will also conduct the show’s 5-piece orchestra which uniquely plays directly on the stage to enhance the musical experience.

The Last Five Years will feature sound by David M. Greenberg, lighting by Matthew F. Lewandowski II, choreography by Devon Sinclair, scenic design by Charlie Calvert, and costume design by Jeannette ChristensenEli Lynn is the intimacy director. The Stage Manager is Melissa Katherine Collins.

The Last Five Years, first staged in Chicago in 2001 and then produced in 2002 Off-Broadway in a production starring Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott, has become a staple of regional theaters not only in the United States, but across the globe. The 90-minute love story follows two aspiring artists in New York City who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. Jamie, a writer, has just fallen in love. Cathy, an aspiring actress, is mourning the end of their relationship five years in the future. Jamie’s arc is in chronological order, but Cathy’s moves in reverse. They meet in the middle when they decide to marry. The entirely sung-through musical’s emotional songs progress us through the love story.

Written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, who first entered the New York theatre scene in 1995 with Songs for a New World and is a Tony Award-winner for his musicals Parade and The Bridges of Madison County, may just be “the best musical-theatre composer alive at this moment,” shares Jones. He continues “which is precisely what drew me to include The Last Five Years in PSF’s 33rd season line-up.”

Audiences can also enjoy these show extras: join the PSF actors and staff for a friendly post-show champagne toast, opening night, Friday, June 14; meet the actors for a talk-back after the show on Thursday, June 20 & 27; and there will be an Audio Described performance on June 22, 2:00pm.

The production Sponsors for The Last Five Years are Yvonne Payne and Edward Spitzer, and the Co-Sponsors are Lutron and The Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation.

The Festival’s 2024 Season Sponsors are Lee and Dolly Butz. The Associate Season Sponsors are Linda Lapos and Paul Wirth, Kathleen Kund Nolan and Timothy E. Nolan, the Szarko Family, and Harry C. Trexler Trust.

Single tickets, subscriptions, and packages can be purchased online at, or by calling the box office at 610.282.WILL [9455], ext. 1, or in person at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of DeSales University, in Center Valley, PA.

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, the official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, features acclaimed actors from Broadway, television, and film, and is the summer home to over 200 artists from around the country, including winners and nominees of the Tony, Obie, Emmy, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Jefferson, and Barrymore Awards.

The 2024 Summer Season—

“Play On!” Community Tour: May 31 to June 16

The Comedy of Errors

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Jessica Bedford

On the Main Stage:

PSF presents 1812 Productions:

The Play That Goes Wrong

May 29 to June 16  

By Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, & Jonathan Sayer

Directed by Jennifer Childs

The Merry Wives of Windsor

June 26 to July 7

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Matt Pfeiffer

The Color Purple

July 17 to August 4

Book by Marsha Norman

Music & Lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray

Directed by Amina Robinson

In the Schubert Theatre:

The Last Five Years

June 12 to June 30

Written and Composed by Jason Robert Brown

Directed by Jason King Jones

July 24 to August 4

By William Shakespeare

“Extreme Shakespeare”

Children’s Theatre Productions:

Winnie-the-Pooh & Friends | Schubert Theatre

July 5 to August 3- Adapted by Jason King Jones | Directed by Jenna Place

Shakespeare for Kids (S4K) presents Twelfth Night | Main Stage

July 24 to August 3- By Erin Sheffield | Directed by Matt Pfeiffer

 S4K Mini Tour:
Friday, July 26th at Allentown Public Library
Saturday, July 27th at Lower Macungie Library
Wednesday, July 31st at Bucks County Free Library (Quakertown Branch)
Thursday, August 1st at Hellertown Area Library

The Festival will host its 2nd annual Community Day event on Saturday, July 6, 2024. The event will take place on the mall and in front of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts at DeSales University. And a ticketed one-time only event will take place in the Schubert Theatre at 2pm, July 6: The Sonnet Man.

Actor Bios:

BENJAMIN LURYE (Jamie) recently played Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza at Opera in the Heights, Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd at Theatre Under the Stars, and Max in A Comedy of Tenors at Bristol Riverside Theatre. Ben has also appeared at the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre: Sweeney Todd (2023 and 2010), A Little Night Music, Diner; Ford’s Theatre: Hello, Dolly!; Olney Theatre: My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins (dir. Jason King Jones), Sweeney Todd, Forever Plaid, Joseph…Dreamcoat; Rep Stage: Songs for a New World, Sweeney Todd, The Fantasticks; Toby’s Dinner Theatre, 1st Stage, Virginia Rep, and more. CONCERT: NSO: Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Ben Folds and Mo Willems; Lawton Philharmonic: On The Town. Online:

CHANI WERELEY (Cathy) Regional: Ford’s Theatre: Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey); Signature Theatre: Sweeney Todd (Bird Seller), Pacific Overtures (Madam), Into the Woods (Lucinda); Olney Theatre Center: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Yitzhak), A.D. 16 (Esther); Folger Theatre: Love’s Labor’s Lost (Katherine); Round House Theatre: Spring Awakening (Martha); Kennedy Center: Earthrise (Sophia); Keegan Theatre: American Idiot (Extraordinary Girl), Dogfight (Ruth Two Bears); Monumental Theatre Co: Pippin (Catherine), Bonnie and Clyde. EDUCATION: Catholic University.

Creative Team and Leadership:

SAMUEL THORNE BAGALÀ (Music Director) Sam is thrilled to be making his PSF debut! Broadway/NYC credits include: Days of Wine & RosesHamiltonRadio City Christmas SpectacularCharlie & The Chocolate Factory. Tours: Hamilton (1st national), RENT (20th Anniversary Tour – US & Tokyo), Elf (three seasons). Regional: Fulton Theatre (most recently: The Last Five Years), Maine State Music Theatre (9 seasons), Dallas Theater Center.  As a composer, Sam has written music for film, podcast, & commercials. Graduate of The Boston Conservatory with a degree in Piano Performance. Sam resides in Philadelphia where he has a music production studio. Love to Teesta, Rose, & The Fam Jam! Enjoy the show! Online:

CHARLIE CALVERT (Scenic Designer) is excited to be back at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival for another season. Company credits include Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill and James and the Giant Peach. Other recent credits: Julius Caesar (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company); Comedy of TenorsDial M for Murder and Fickle: A Fancy French Farce (Olney Theatre Center); A Man for All SeasonsBlithe SpiritLove’s Labour’s LostHenry VIII, and Comedy of Errors (The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey); The Crucible and Moonlight for the Misbegotten (The Warehouse Theatre). Charlie received his MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and serves on the faculty at University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music.

JEANNETTE CHRISTENSEN (Costume Designer) is a Baltimore-based costume designer, illustrator, and fashion stylist. She has most notably designed costumes for the Broadway national tour of On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan 2022-2024 and the world premier in Spanish with Gala Hispanic Theatre (Helen Hayes win – Outstanding Costume Design). She has designed for The Kennedy Center, American Players Theatre, Oklahoma City Rep, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Folger Theatre, Gala Hispanic Theatre, and Olney Theatre Center. She has been an associate designer with The Muny, Round House Theatre, Wolf Trap Opera, and Studio Theatre. She has worked as a costume designer/mentor with Arizona State University, University of Maryland, Bowie State University, American University, and George Washington University. Education: BA in Design & Production from Arizona State University, MFA in Design from the University of Maryland. Find more of her work at

MELISSA KATHERINE COLLINS (Stage Manager) an Atlanta native and Florida resident, Melissa studied at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida receiving an A.A. in Entertainment Design and Technology. This is Melissa’s second season with PSF and she is thrilled to be back. Recent credits: Henry IV, Part 2 at PSF, Henry VI, Part 1 and Ain’t Misbehavin at Orlando Shakes; The Sound of Music and Memphis at The Lexington Theatre Company; Hymn at Shakespeare & Company.

CASEY WILLIAM GALLAGHER (PSF Managing Director) has worked at PSF for 26 seasons. Over the years he was a box office intern, a stage management intern, the assistant house manager, box office manager, company manager, assistant producer, director of development and worked directly with PSF Founder Jerry Schubert in the early years of the organization. Since 2004, in his role as general manager and later managing director, he served as the administrative leader of the festival, working very closely with former Producing Artistic Director Patrick Mulcahy and the box office, business, development, marketing and production departments. Casey now serves as co-leader of the Festival with Artistic Director Jason King Jones. Beyond PSF, Casey was treasurer for the Shakespeare Theatre Association, director of audience services for The People’s Light & Theatre Company, a board member for Civic Theatre of Allentown, a peer panelist for the New Jersey Council on the Arts and a judge for the Greater Philadelphia Barrymore Awards for excellence in theatre.

DAVID M. GREENBERG (Sound Designer) is a composer and sound designer from Fort Lauderdale, FL by way of Knoxville, TN. He received his BA in Theatre from the University of Tennessee and his MFA in Theatre Sound Design and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Part of the Theatre Sound Designers and Composers Association (TSDCA) and the Audio Engineering Society (AES), David is the Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Sound Design and Reinforcement at Shenandoah Conservatory at Shenandoah University. His recent works include The Tempest (PSF), Intimate ApparelRodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (DeSales), She Kills Monsters (Shenandoah Conservatory), and Always, Patsy Cline (Creede Repertory Theatre).

JASON KING JONES (PSF Artistic Director; Director, The Last Five Years). Prior to moving to the Lehigh Valley with his family, Jason spent ten years at Maryland’s Olney Theatre Center, where he served as Senior Associate Artistic Director and Artistic Director of National Players, America’s longest-running touring theatre company. In the past twenty-five years Jason directed over seventy-five productions, mentored hundreds of early-career theatre makers, and established various in-school and summer educational programs. He is an Acting Company alumnus, a proud member of the PSF Board, and a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association’s IDEAA Committee, and Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Nonprofit & Business Partners Council. Jason holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from Missouri State and an MFA in Directing from Boston University.

MATTHEW F. LEWANDOWSKI II (Director of Production; Lighting Designer) Touring has taken Mr. Lewandowski throughout the Americas, the Far East, and Europe serving in various capacities for tours such as CatsCrazy for YouDisney on Ice and as Director of Production, Lighting Designer, and Director for the New York City based, international dance company, Shen Wei Dance Arts. Design credits include work at Harlem’s Apollo Theater with the New York Hip-Hop Theater Fest, New Year’s Eve at the Hammerstein Ballroom with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, various works with Dance CT/Hartford Ballet, and The University of Hartford as well as Shen Wei’s Collective Measures, premiering at The American Dance Festival. Additional management credits include Music@Menlo based in the CA Bay Area, the New York Music Theatre Festival, American Repertory Ballet, North Carolina Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, The Performance Garage and the TONY Award winning, Crossroads Theatre Company. Mr. Lewandowski is a graduate of the Connecticut’s Hartt School of Music with a degree in Music Direction and Conducting and a proud native son of Philadelphia.

ELI LYNN (Intimacy Director) (they/them) is an actor, Intimacy Director, and Barrymore-nominated fight director. PSF credits: Hal (Henry IV, Pt. 2), Jess (Complete Works … Abridged), Flute (Midsummer). Recent regional credits: Big Alison (Fun Home, New Light Theatre), Trevor (TPTGW, 1812 Productions), Orsino/Toby (Twelfth Night) and Jean 3/Prince (Thrive, American Shakespeare Center), Aramis (The Three Musketeers, Cleveland Playhouse), Dorcus/Dion (The Winter’s Tale, Folger Theatre). They have studied stage combat for 15 years, and are recognized as an Advanced Actor Combatant with five international organizations. Recent fight credits include: The Lightning Thief (Drexel), Noises Off (DTC), Sense and Sensibility (PSF), TPTGW (1812). They’re also an Artistic Associate with Philadelphia Artists’ Collective.

DEVON SINCLAIR (Choreographer) is a proud Philly native with an artistic flair for impactful spectacles of the heart. The Penn State alum works across the Greater Philadelphia region as a Director/Choreographer, Actor, Teaching Artist, and Professor at Temple University. As a creative and artist, Devon seizes opportunities to create exuberant and engaging productions that remind us of the limitless possibilities of storytelling. Most recently, Devon won the 2023 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Choreography in a Musical. His projects have spanned the Walnut Street Theatre, Arden Theatre, Media Theatre, Quintessence Theatre Group, and more! He gives vibrant thanks to his community of loved ones. Media and more at| @CHOREATOR


Information provided to TVL by:
Tina Louise Slak
Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival
The Professional Theatre at DeSales University
2755 Station Avenue
Center Valley, PA 18034
p: 610-282-WILL [9455]