Director John Lynn and Producer Ben Bakken have been friends for years. Recently they joined forces and created a new company in the Twin Cities, Flip Theatre. Their first venture is producing the cult classic “The Last Five Years”. If you are a musical theatre buff, you should know this show and definitely go see it!
Although I am living in New York City, the three of us have stayed in touch and have had lots of back and forth chatter surrounding the show. John and I decided to do a short interview to give you lovely readers the inside scoop on the musical before it opens. Here it is…
The Playbill Collector (TPC): Tell me a little bit about what got you started in theater. Did you perform as a kid?
John Lynn (JL): I was raised in the theatre when I was a child. I grew up outside of Gary, Indiana and there was a wonderful summer stock theatre where my mother was an actress. I started when I was 10 in the shows and continued through high school. My first role was Oliver in my towns high school musical. I quit cub scouts to play the role and never looked back.
TPC: Fun! “Oliver” was my first community theatre show I did with my siblings. I’ve got fond memories of it! So what brought you to Minnesota?
JL: My parents moved to Minnesota when I was in college. When I graduated from college as an english/theatre teacher I moved to Minneapolis. I loved the schools and LOVED the theatre scene. I knew it was the place for me.
TPC: Why did you decide to start a new theater company in the Twin Cities?
JL: After spending the last 20 years as a voice teacher and director, I thought it was time to fulfill my dream to have a small theatre company. After several years talking to my good friend, Ben Bakken about the company, we decided to team up and create a new company. Working with and knowing so many actors and directors, we got some great advice and a lot of encouragement to go for it!
TPC: Amazing. What got you excited about “The Last Five Years?”
JL: I saw “The Last Five Years” Off-Broadway with the original cast when it was still in previews. I had no idea what to expect and was so moved by this musical. Being married…and divorced…this show hit home and felt like one of the most honest musicals I had seen in a long time. And, being a vocal coach, the JRB’s songs are so wonderful for contemporary musical theatre singers. Since we wanted to start with a smaller, intimate show, this seemed like the perfect fit. It is well liked by the theatre community so we hope to have an instant audience.
TPC: It was a great choice! I recently saw the Second Stage Theatre production and with the movie coming out, the timing couldn’t be better. Can you give us a little insight as to what to expect? What kind of angle are you taking on the show?
JL: Our production is going to be very simple. A simple set of window frames and doorways will be the backdrop to this show. We are focusing on strong lighting to create mood and time. This show is about the actors telling an honest story -we don’t feel the need for elaborate production details. We have a wonderful orchestra and are planning to take the music to a bit more of a rock edge. We basically want to create a simple and comfortable space for our two brilliant actors to tell this story.
TPC: Sounds lovely. I’m hoping to take a trip back to see it. Any hints on what its like working with the leads?
JL: We are so excited to have Britta Ollmann and Bobby Gardner as our leads. These two wonderful actors know the importance of acting through song – which is so crucial since they are the only two in the show. The both bring something completely different to these roles than I have ever seen before. I think the audience will be rooting for both characters equally, which was not easy to find. Bobby comes from a background in comedy and Britta has Broadway credits. An interesting pairing and I couldn’t be more excited!
TPC: Besides the actors, who is on your team?
JL: We have Ben Bakken producing, Jason Hanson as conductor, lighting designer Grant Merges.
I was able to sit through a few hours of the second day of auditions for this show and can say without any hesitation, these guys know what they are doing. There were many people who auditioned for these two roles and although I was unable to see the two they chose, I can only imagine they are phenomenal. Do yourself a favor friends, don’t miss this show. The music is spectacular and the creative team is wonderful.
To learn more about Flip Theatre check out their site: https://www.facebook.com/fliptheatreco
For information on John Lynn: http://johnlynnstudios.com/