Molly McGrath: The Last Five Years

Molly McGrath 1.jpg

Molly Rose Marie McGrath -- a coloratura in cowboy boots.

She's a coloratura who owns six pairs of cowboy boots and prefers show tunes and country standards to arias.

There is nothing stereotypical about Molly Rose McGrath.

Born and raised the the Capital Region, her voice teachers pushed her toward opera and encouraged her to head for New York -- but she prefers to stay close to home.

She's been performing locally for years, most notably as Annie Oakley at Albany's Park Playhouse and Patsy Cline in Saratoga.

Now she's trying her hand at producing with a dark, funny little cult show called The Last Five Years.

The Last 5 Years poster.jpgThe show is kind of a cult musical in New York City -- a song cycle by Jason Robert Brown about a five-year relationship. "If you're under 30 and you like musical theater, you've probably been obsessed with it at one time or another," McGrath laughs.

McGrath and her co-star Nick Abounader tell the same story from different directions. His story starts at the beginning and goes to the end, but her story is told backwards. "This show is real. You're not coming in to see dancing and fancy costumes -- this how is about a relationship is -- whether you're a hippie or a hipster or gay or straight. If you appreciate just wonderful music you'll get it."

In addition to turns in show's like Annie Get Your Gun, Guys and Dolls and Into the Woods, McGrath has become known for her work on quirkier, darker shows performed by smaller local comapnies -- shows like The Reindeer Monologues and The Great American Trailer Park Musical.

"I think the landscape is changing. There's room to do the more traditional shows and mix them up with more modern pieces like [The Last Five Years]. Schenectady Light Opera Company is doing Next to Normal next year. There are also small groups popping up like the Local Actors Guild of Saratoga, run by J.J. Buechner. He's always taking risks. He's found his niche in these quirky, funny shows. So in the same area you can catch a more traditional show and something small and maybe darker or just different."

Molly McGrath Cinderella.jpg
(Molly as Cinderella in Home Made Theater's Into the Woods)

The variety is part of what keeps her in the Capital Region. "I like it here. It's easy to be happy here. And there are so many opportunities to do so much. In New York, if you don't get cast in a professional show, it's harder to do anything at all. Here you can pay your bills and enjoy your life."

From the time she was in high school voice teachers were pressing her to study opera and go into music professionally.

"Then I started taking musical theater and suddenly there was this battle between wanting to belt and wanting to sing high Cs. I ran into this one really cool guy who was doing musical theater here and he said, 'You need to belt.' I was singing a song from Once on this Island and I belted. And everything changed."

Molly McGrath --Annie Oakley.jpg
(Annie Oakley at Park Playhouse)

Since then she's been performing pretty much non-stop. Last spring she did her first, and possibly last, solo cabaret show, Songs My Gay Friend Wants Me To Sing. "I get terrible stage fright. I freak out -- like can't-even-function kind of stage fright. It was terrible when I was alone for the cabaret show, but even in Annie Get Your Gun, even when I was going out for my 40th performance, I'd get the feeling my body just wanted to shut down, I'd turn bright red."

So why do it? "It stops once I get going," she laughs. "It's not enough to make me stop. It's the adrenalin rush that I love. I've met my best friends doing this. When you're working on something and you're able you share a passion with these people that you can't explain -- with these people who understand you -- it's a really fun and amazing thing."

Molly McGrath Patsy.jpg
(Patsy Cline at Actor's Guild of Saratoga)

She's already lined up her next show. Once The Last Five Years closes she'll start rehearsing for Avenue Q with The Local Actors Guild of Saratoga. "It'll be so much fun. We've got this great puppeteer from Troy building our puppets."

Because of her look, McGrath ends up playing a lot of ingenues, "I'd really love to play a villain sometime." Still, she says she's already played her favorite parts. "My dream role was Annie Oakley -- and I got to play that in the park. Oh -- and Patsy Cline -- and I played her. I've worn cowboy boots for my last six shows. I'm such a redneck at heart."

The Last Five Years is being performed as a benefit for the American Cancer Society February 6,7, 10, 11, 13 and 14 at Caffe Lena. Tickets are $15.

If you want a small taste of the show, here's McGrath performing a piece from it a few years ago:


Great write up! Molly's voice is truly exceptional... I can't wait to see her play Cathy at Caffe Lena again.

I have to have it known, I did a/v for "The Reindeer Monologes" when Molly played "Vixen" and it was probably the best non-singing performance I've ever seen her in. She was great!

Saw her in Always Patsy Kline last night. Oh my gosh! She was marvelous. Her singing is marvelous, and she is positively beautiful. Her songs brought back memories and some tears. So glad we went and had her enter our life of great show people. Thank you.

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