Catching up with the two tours of the Jonathan Larson musical Rent finds response on the road very much the same as in New York, where the show continues its sold-out Broadway run at the Nederlander Theatre, and Boston, its first out of town engagement (which ended its seven-month run on May 25).
Mark Johnson said audience and media reaction has been "overwhelming." Johnson is company manager for the "A" or "Angel Tour," which opened in early June at St. Paul, MN's Ordway Theatre, a major stopping point for Broadway try-outs and tours.
"Audiences cheer constantly," he reported. "In fact, half way through the first act, the applause is no longer just applause. It keeps rising a level with each burst. The minute the show is over, it seems everyone in the house jumps to their feet."
Johnson said the company has been averaging three to four curtain calls a performance. He explained that they had expected more resistance to the show, since the Midwest is a more conservative area. "But the audience response in St. Paul is as fierce as it was in Boston, if not more so. I think the Ordway subscribers have been much more accepting than any of us had expected."
Rent is playing in St. Paul, through Aug. 17, as part of the Ordway's subscription season. "It seems that a cult status like you find with rock stars has developed among teenage girls here that stand outside the stage door and scream," said Johnson. "There are about 50 after every performance. I've never seen anything like this with any other Broadway show I've worked with." He said their favorites are Manley Pope who plays Roger, and Luther Creek, who plays Mark. The Ordway run is sold out. The next stop for the Angel company is Washington, where the company will be for 11 weeks. As in New York, Boston, and La Jolla, $20 "cheap seats" are offered for each performance.
"The kids begin camping out two days in advance," said Johnson. "They come in groups from Duluth and places that are hours away and have a great big party as they wait for tickets."
At San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse, where Rent opened with it's second tour company in early July, the press representative for the Playhouse said that "audience and media response has been excellent, no, it's been better than excellent. It's been overwhelming." The La Jolla run, which ends Sept. 13 is SRO, so there is huge demand for the $20 "bench" seats available day of performance at the box office. These 20 seats are situated in the area where the orchestra pit normally would be. The Rent orchestra is on stage. The "bench" seat line begins forming at the theatre on the campus of the University of California at San Diego the day before with kids from throughout the area and region camping out in sleeping bags and tents.
La Jolla spokesman Josh Ellis said that he's been especially impressed with the response from La Jolla's 14,000 subscribers. "I couldn't guess what it would be like. We didn't know if there would be resistance to the show or not. But I had no idea the acceptance would be so overwhelming. The applause, the cheers, the standing ovations, the calls to the box office begging for tickets. This has been the perfect show to celebrate La Jolla's 50th anniversary."
Ellis also noted that the publicity Rent received from the media resulted in an increase of 4,000 subscribers to the theatre's list for their annual six-show season.