The New York Times reports that the California high school, which had canceled its Rent production the week of Feb. 18, will now present the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical in April at the Newport Beach, CA, school.
When the show had been canceled, the school's drama instructor, Ronald K. Martin, said at that time 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.
In a new statement released by principal Asrani, she said, "I never had a problem with the play selected by Mr. Martin. The selection of our drama productions is his call. I just requested the opportunity to review the script before it was final. Administration received parent concerns from a previous play and I wanted to be able to ensure my commitment to the concerned parents as well as show my support of the student production without any reservation."
Drama instructor Martin, according to the Times, said he had initially chosen the Larson musical because a few Corona del Mar students had posted homophobic statements on Facebook.
On Feb. 25 Martin said he was happy that the students would be able to perform the musical but was unhappy that principal Asrani "basically called me a liar" in the statement that she released. Martin, who will direct the production, added, "I'm grateful that we're able to do the play, but what is stated in the statements are not true. . . Rent is going on, but the problems of homophobia at our school do exist."
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. *
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.