The New York Times reports that Corona del Mar High School, located in Newport Beach, CA, has canceled its staging of Rent, which was scheduled to begin April 23.
The school's drama instructor, Ronald K. Martin, said that principal Fal Asrani canceled the school edition of Rent because Asrani objected to the musical's gay characters. Asrani, however, said that the production was stopped because Martin did not have enough time for script revisions. Martin denied that allegation, adding that the Rent scripts had not yet been ordered.
Rowlett High School in Texas had previously canceled its production of Rent after members of the community — including many of the school's parents — objected to the show's content. The cast, however, later performed the show at Southern Methodist University.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical by composer-lyricist-librettist Larson concerns a group of bohemians who fall in and out of love in the age of AIDS. Inspired by the opera La Boheme, it features gay, straight and bi-sexual characters, drug addicts, HIV infection and free expression at "the end of the millennium," in the 1990s.
Licensed by Music Theatre International, Rent: School Edition (as the name suggests) is an edited version of the Tony Award-winning script and score, and is meant for high school audiences (some language is toned down, and the Act Two sex fantasy number has been cut). MTI gives the show an "R" rating, similar to movie ratings, aiming the show at more mature audiences. Here's how MTI bills Rent: School Edition: "It follows a year in the lives of seven friends living the disappearing Bohemian lifestyle in New York's East Village. AIDS and both its physical and emotional complications pervade the lives of Roger, Mimi, Tom, and Angel; Maureen deals with her chronic infidelity through performance art; her partner, Joanne, wonders if their relationship is worth the trouble; Benjamin has sold out his Bohemian ideals in exchange for a hefty income and is on the outs with his former friends; and Mark, an aspiring filmmaker, feels like an outsider to life in general, always behind the camera recording the events but never playing a part. This adaptation has been carefully done, working with the Larson estate to retain the dramatic intent of the groundbreaking rock musical, and consists of minimal changes to language and the removal of one song ("Contact") to make it possible for many schools to perform this piece."
MTI's website lists dozens of organizations that have presented, or plan to present, Rent: School Edition in North America. Visit mtishows.com.
The Broadway production of Rent closed in September 2008 after 12 years of performances at the Nederlander Theatre. A national tour starring original cast members Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal launched in January. Visit www.siteforrent.com.