A New Season of Love: Rent, Three Years After Broadway End, Opens Again in NYC

News   A New Season of Love: Rent, Three Years After Broadway End, Opens Again in NYC
Rent, the award-winning Broadway rock musical about a group of friends, lovers and artists seeking to express themselves in the age of AIDS, opens anew in Manhattan Aug. 11 in a freshly conceived production Off-Broadway, where the show had its first blush in February 1996.

Adam Chanler-Berat
Adam Chanler-Berat Photo by Joan Marcus

Again helmed by its original Tony Award-nominated director, Michael Greif, who first directed the New York Theatre Workshop staging on East Fourth Street in the shaggy East Village, Rent is now approached with fresh eyes by a creative team that is not an exact match of that first staging that went on to Broadway (and international) exposure. Previews for this Rent revival began at New World Stages in midtown Manhattan on July 14, populated by a cast that was in elementary school when the musical shook the foundation of American musical theatre and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award as Best Musical.

The original producers Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum and Allan S. Gordon have re-teamed to produce Rent, and they're hoping it has a long life — again.

Lyricist-librettist-composer Jonathan Larson based his work on the Puccini opera La Boheme, about passion and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris. Larson set Rent in New York City's gritty, artist-infested East Village. The tragedy of one of the characters in the opera would be reflected in Larson's life story: He died of a heart ailment the night before Rent's first preview Off-Broadway. Posthumous awards — and a long life on Broadway, on tour, around the world and on film — would follow. (After a run of more than 12 years, the Broadway production closed in September 2008.)

Matt Shingledecker and Arianda Fernandez
photo by Joan Marcus

Director Greif (Next to Normal) has engaged a new choreographer, a new set designer, a new lighting designer, a new projection designer and others to reinvent Rent (without changing a word, except that the opening line now makes clear that the show's period is 1991-92 rather than circa 1995).

Grief told Playbill magazine this summer, "Over the years that I've watched the show, there were things I wanted to change. When we did it internationally or for tours, I made changes. This seemed like a chance for an overhaul. Working with a new choreographer, on a new set with new costumes and a new projection design, really invigorated me." Greif's new cast includes Adam Chanler-Berat, late of Next to Normal and Peter and the Starcatcher, as documentary filmmaker Mark Cohen; Wicked alumna Annaleigh Ashford (Maureen Johnson); Margot Bingham (Alexi Darling, Roger's Mom, and others); Nicholas Christopher (Tom Collins); Arianda Fernandez (Mimi Marquez); dance captain Marcus Paul James (Mr. Jefferson, Paul, and others); Tamika Sonja Lawrence (Mrs. Jefferson, woman with bags); Corbin Reid (Joanne Jefferson); Michael Rodriguez (Angel Schunard); Matt Shingledecker (Roger Davis); Ephraim Sykes (Benjamin Coffin III); Ben Thompson (Christmas caroler, Mr. Grey, The Man, and others); Michael Wartella (Steve, Gordon, Waiter, and others); and Morgan Weed (Mark's Mom and others). Also in the company are Sean Michael Murray, Xavier Cano and Genny Padilla.

Greif's creative team includes choreographer Larry Keigwin; music supervisor Tim Weil (who also provides additional arrangements); set designer Mark Wendland; costume designer Angela Wendt; lighting designer Kevin Adams; sound designer Brian Ronan; projection designer Peter Nigrini; musical director Will Van Dyke; musical arranger Steve Skinner; casting director Telsey + Company; technical supervisor Brian Lynch; and production stage manager Monica A. Cuoco.

Rent's original concept and additional lyrics are by Billy Aronson. The dramaturg was Lynn M. Thomson.

Read more of director Greif's thoughts on the new Rent in Playbill.com's recent Brief Encounter interview. New World Stages is at 340 W. 50th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. Rent performs Mondays and Wednesday through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 7:30 PM, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 PM.

Tickets ($69.50-$89.50) may be purchased by visiting siteforrent.com or telecharge.com; by phoning (212) 947-8844; or by going to the New World Stages box office.

For box office hours visit newworldstages.com/boxoffice.html. For more information about Rent, visit siteforrent.com.

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