"NO PHONE CALLS -- JUST SHOW UP!"
That was the exhortation for the official New York Rent audition, Tuesday, April 8 -- and they sure did show up, at the Musical Theatre Works Space, 440 Lafayette St., (near Astor Place), from 10 AM-5 PM.
A stroll down Lafayette Street at 11 AM showed the line of hopefuls (in casual bunches of 4 and 5 together) stretching all the way down the block.
Rent may be an amplified, energized, rock `n' roll musical, but the young auditioners could not have been more mellow as they chatted, sang quietly to themselves, dined from salad containers or shlepped guitar cases a few feet every few minutes.
Ronen Glimer (pronounced "glimmer"), a New Yorker by way of Chicago, told Playbill On-Line he'd be auditioning with the Rent tune "What You Own." With his skinny frame, thatched blonde hair and big glasses, Glimer seemed a natural for the part of Mark. His best friend since kindergarten, Joel Chasnoff, was a bit more experienced in musical theatre auditions, though he, too, was non-Equity. "I'll be doing a song from Little Shop [Of Horrors]" he said, adding that he'd been online for three hours at that point, but things were moving well: "Folks who camped out overnight were seen first and out right away." Asked if there was anything special about Rent or if it was just another audition, Chasnoff replied, "Well, Broadway is the pinnacle of theatre, and Rent is the pinnacle for Generation X." "It's different," said Glimer, "The show lets you be you. Rent is the Antichrist of Broadway shows."
Redheaded Katie Damiano of Tewkesbury, NJ, said she first became aware of Rent after watching a TV special about the death of author/composer Jonathan Larson. "The music is so different, I love it," said Damiano, who intended to audition with the Joan Baez tune, "Billy Rose." The young actress has appeared in several musicals at New Jersey community theatres (Peter Pan, Baby), but admitted that a New York Broadway audition was daunting. "You see so many people on the line, it makes you realize you need something to fall back on!" Damiano, studying for a BA in music, graduates in May.
Though an open call (meaning Equity and non-Equity), the Rent audition also drew some seasoned musical veterans. Tome Cousin of Pittsburgh lists on his resume Tommy in Germany and the national tour of Leader Of The Pack. "I like the show," he said of Rent. "It's unusual music for Broadway, and the storyline is contemporary, more realistic than anything else you see yout there." His audition piece was to be "Eyesight To The Blind" (from Tommy). Cousin estimated that 400-500 people had shown up for the Rent audition (as opposed to the usual Equity call that garners 150-200).
A monitor for the audition, Mike, told Playbill On-Line the audition had been moving very smoothly. "Every ten minutes we move in ten people. They're very well-controlled. One guy tried to get in because he said he went to high school with me. He actually did go to high school with me, but I couldn't let him in early." Once up on the 4th floor of the Musical Theatre Works building, hopefuls are asked to sing about ten seconds worth of material. Many of those were then given a ticket to go to another room and do a full 16-bars of their audition piece. Said a production assistant, "some callbacks will be sooner than later, but over the next week and a half we should have it all done."
Performers auditioning are considered for all the Rent companies, especially the Broadway run that opened April 29, 1996 at the Nederlander Theatre. After nearly a year with no cast changes, Daphne Rubin-Vega left the show, April 5, to pursue a movie and recording career. Marcy Harriell has taken her place.
For the audition, producers were looking for "men and women of all ethnicities in their early 20s to early 30s, particularly real rock & roll, R&B and gospel singers." Hopefuls were asked to bring a photo, resume and prepare 16 bars each of two rock/pop songs (an accompanist will be available). The casting director is looking for "raw singers who truly have a quality of street life, can move well, and have a good time on stage."
The Boston Rent company goes to St. Paul in June and will eventually wind up in Chicago in November. Miami will also see the show this year, as will La Jolla (July), whose company will then move to L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum in September. Toronto is expected to get Rent in 1997, though London might not see it until early 1998.
For tickets and information on Rent at the Nederlander Theatre, call (212) 307-4100.