Broadway at Duke will present a special encore performance of Rent on Wednesday, Nov. 3, in Page Auditorium on Duke University's West Campus in Durham, NC. Jonathan Larson's landmark Broadway rock musical posthumously won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; the 1996 Tony Awards® for Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book; the 1996 Theatre World Award; and many, many other honors.
Rent is a bittersweet look at the state of the arts in the Big Apple in a time of plague (i.e., AIDS and rampant drug addiction) and capitalism run amok. This message musical gets some of its poignancy from the fact that its youthful creator, Jonathan Larson, died unexpectedly from a ruptured aortic aneurysm just 10 days before his 36th birthday and one day before Rent's first performance Off Broadway. (Rent opened at Nederlander Theatre on Broadway on April 29, 1996 and is still playing there, with more than 3,500 performances so far.)
Larson based Rent on the 1896 opera La Bohème by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924). La Bohème chronicles the star-crossed love of two Left Bank bohemians, Rodolfo and the tubercular Mimi, in 19th-century Paris. Rent is set in the mid-1990s in New York City's East Village, where starving artists — many of them drug addicts and/or HIV+ squatters in abandoned and rundown buildings — battle money-mad Yuppie real estate developers for the future of their ersatz artists' colony.
Directed by Michael Greif and choreographed by Marlies Yearby — both of whom received Tony nominations for their work on the original Broadway production — the current National Tour features musical direction and additional arrangements by Tim Weil, set designs by Paul Clay, costume designs by Angela Wendt, and lighting designs by Blake Burba — all of whom worked on the Broadway production, for which Blake Burba also received a Tony nomination for Best Lighting Design.
Rent stars Mario Ferrell as greedy nouveau-riche landlord Benjamin Coffin III, Ava as feisty bisexual performance artist Maureen Johnson, and Andy Meeks as documentary filmmaker Mark Cohen.
Marcus Paul James plays computer guru and street-corner philosopher Tom Collins, Adrienne Fishe portrays lesbian public-interest attorney and political activist Joanne Jefferson, and Tallia Brinson appears as HIV+ exotic dancer and drug addict Mimi Marquez.
Other key performers include Dan Rosenbaum as HIV+ guitarist/songwriter Roger Davis, and Damian DeShaun Smith as beautiful HIV+ transvestite club dancer Angel Schunard. Completing the cast are Aswad, Ladonna Burns, Danny Calvert, Mimi Ferraro, Kevin Gardner, Kristen Griffith, Crystal Monee Hall, Christina Hernandez, Lindsey Lake, Alan Swadener, Jonathan Tisevich, and Aaron Tveit in the ensemble.
In describing the original Broadway production of Rent, a Newsweek Magazine writer brilliantly summed up the show's enduring audience appeal: "The homeless, the addicts and alkies move like oracular nomads among the 'artistes' (as a homeless woman scornfully calls them), who don't know where their next rent check is coming from, or their next inspiration for a song or a picture, or the next lethal raid by the specter of AIDS. Yet Rent is a thrilling, positive show. In a rich stream of memorable songs, Larson makes true theater music from the eclectic energies of today's pop-rock, gospel, reggae, salsa, even a tango."
Broadway at Duke presents Rent Wednesday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m. in Page Auditorium on Duke University's West Campus in Durham, North Carolina. $35-$45. 919/684-4444 or http://tickets.duke.edu/. Broadway at Duke: http://www.duke.edu/web/duu/broadway/broadwayevents.htm#bad2. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=4791. Broadway Web Site: http://www.siteforrent.com/. Tour Site: http://www.rentthetour.com/.