May 22, 2019

Spring Musical Preview: Rent

This year’s spring show is Rent, a rock musical first performed in 1994. (Music Theatre International)

Rent is an amazing show, and I think that everyone should see it at least once. Before I continue, I just want to make it clear that Rent is fictional. It’s definitely one way to be introduced to the time period of the HIV/AIDS crisis; that was my experience with the show. However, if Rent is all you ever learn about HIV/AIDS and the complex struggles of the crisis, you haven’t learned enough. For more background informatio, look up the artist Keith Haring, the group ACT UP, Ronald Reagan’s policy towards the HIV/AIDS crisis, the history of azidothymidine, the specific effects of the HIV/AIDS crisis on the LGBTQ+ and African-American communities, or the impact of HIV/AIDS in the world today.

Rent demonstrates what you can gain from the past if you approach it with an open mind. For example, instead of judging the character Mimi Marquez, a nightclub dancer, who uses heroin and is HIV+, try to think about the reason she’s in that situation. The intersection of factors such as socioeconomic status, physical health, and occupation played out in Rent very much influence each character.

The show also deserves credit from a technical standpoint. The characters communicate in song, including the dialogue in between major musical numbers. Composer and playwright, Jonathan Wright incorporated a 90’s grunge rock influence into much of the soundtrack. His lyrics are filled with raw emotion and honesty. There are parts in the show when it’s hard not to get emotional. A rich landlord, a lawyer, a guitarist, a filmmaker, a dancer, a professor, and a drag queen, three of whom are HIV+, are the main characters of the show. Rent documents human life in its most raw form in a candid portrait of strength and loss.

Through all their fights and differences, the characters prove that living in the moment and believing in all forms of love can create hope in a situation without it.

Despite the psychological weight of the show, the cast is enthusiastic about performing. Opening on Thursday, April 11, Rent will undoubtedly be a musical to remember. To hear a more recent perspective from an individual involved in the show, we interviewed student director, Robert Diller.

Q- What does your job as student director entail?

A- Essentially, I help record all the choreography, and once we actually start getting closer to the musical, I’ll help Mr. Farrenkopf run point with the other heads of directing, like Mr. Dillon, Mrs. Eads, and in general try to make sure what we’re making is coming together as best as it can.

Q- Can you comment on the set or the costumes?

A- We currently haven’t fully made the set. However, Mr. Dillon is talking about having multiple levels, so that’s going to be an interesting touch.

Q- Why is Rent a controversial show, and how is it being handled?

A- Rent deals with the AIDS crisis in New York and how it affected various communities, like the homosexual community, for example. That is mentioned in the show, as there are two same sex couples in it. It’s really handled quite well, and I personally think that it helps build the narrative. There are some scenes that contain vulgar content that could be considered inappropriate. So far, we have tried to mitigate that by using the school version of Rent and that has cut down on some of the potentially offensivesness. I would say this is a musical where if you want to get the most out of it, come with understanding.

Q- What are you most looking forward to about the show?

A- I’m really happy for the whole of the musical to come together, because in my freshman year we did Les Miserables, which had most of lines in song, and it was amazing. With Rent, I am very much reminded of that. I’m very happy with how the dialogue and music have gone so far. Actually, since I’m not an actor on the stage, and I’m helping Mr. Farrenkopf, it takes every bit of myself to hold back from singing along with the songs. I absolutely love this piece.