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Mainstage Series presents Broadway musical 'RENT'
Monday, March 31, 2014

Mainstage Series presents Broadway musical 'RENT'

The cast of “RENT” includes, from left, Ilana Lieberman as Mimi Marquez, Clayton Howe as Roger Davis, Jordan Louis Fischer as Mark Cohen and Steven Saelzler as Angel Dumott Schunard. Six performances are planned April 4-12 in Marvel Theatre. Watch the preview video here!

One of the longest running hits in the history of Broadway will be staged in April.

“RENT,” the award-winning rock musical, will be presented by the Department of Theatre and Dance as part of the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series. Six performances are scheduled from April 4 to 12 in Marvel Theatre.

Dates and times are April 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on April 6 at 2 p.m.

Directing the show will be Tom Loughlin, chairman of the Department of Theatre and Dance. It will be his 29th Mainstage production, having previously directed 26 shows and having appeared in two productions as an actor.

Loughlin said the Mainstage production will be presented as if it were a rock concert.

“There will be no ‘fourth wall’ where the performers and audience are separated,” he said. “We are going for a total involvement experience. We think we can make this happen because ‘RENT’ as a show has more in common with a rock opera style than with a traditional musical play.”

This rock musical, which opened on Broadway in 1996 with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, chronicles the lives of a group of young artists living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The characters work to build careers as they deal with the looming specter of HIV/AIDS.

It won four Tony Awards, including best musical, best book and best score, and a Pulitzer Prize. “RENT” ran on Broadway for 12 years and more than 5,000 performances. It closed as the ninth-longest running production in Broadway history.

“Perhaps one of the advantages of the staging this show is that it has reached iconic status, and so you do not have to think too much about how to stage it. It stages itself in a lot of ways, and I have nothing against giving an audience what they expect to see,” Loughlin said. “It also tells a fairly familiar story, since it’s an adaptation of Puccini’s 'La Boheme.' And because for many of my students it is a musical they grew up listening to, it’s extremely familiar to them - they know it better than I do in many cases. More than once a cast member has corrected me or given me information I did not have about the show. That's fun for me because it places me in the position of learning from them, and I enjoy that.”

One of the challenges in staging the production, according to the director, comes from the fact that “RENT” is in his words “a non-stop roller-coaster of music and action.”

“I am also using a larger cast than normal, so every once in while I have to stop and take careful stock of the many, many details,” Loughlin said. “It’s tough to keep track of everything, but I have fantastic assistants and a cast that continues to keep me alert.”

Loughlin said the strength of this show lies in the music and style of the piece.

“Jonathan Larson really wrote a fantastic collection of music in this show that spans styles from gorgeous choral passages to soft love duets to hard-hitting rock anthems. I truly don’t think people commonly know how terrific and musically rich the score really is, and you can put me among that group before I took on the show,” Loughlin said. “Most people know about the fact that it’s ‘that AIDS musical from the ’90s but that’s a shame, because it robs people of really knowing how good a musical theatre talent Larson really was. I have discovered that the piece is truly a musical feast.”

Loughlin also said one of the show’s highlights is its “continued insistence that, despite every obstacle, one should always live in and appreciate the present moment, because there is truly ‘no day like today."

While much attention has been given to some of the subjects the show addresses, Loughlin thinks the “serious issues” about this show have been “overplayed over time, to the show’s detriment.”

“This show is not about AIDS or homosexuality or drug addiction or any of the other things people say it’s about,” the director said. “All that is in the show, sure, but Larson was smarter than that, and he created a show that’s better than that. He created a show where a collection of young people – all of whom love each other passionately, like family – experience a ‘coming of age’ in a particular time in a particular place. Their love of life, of living, despite all they have to face, and their fierce need and determination to be free to live and love as they choose, is ultimately the most serious thing the show tackles. In my view, the rest is merely incidental to that story.”

The Mainstage production is, however, recommended for mature audiences only.

RENT is sponsored by Niebel Realty as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.

Tickets are available through the SUNY Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 and online at fredonia.edu/tickets.

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