Rent Controversy Inspires Speargrove Presents Musical Event; Hanks to Star

News   Rent Controversy Inspires Speargrove Presents Musical Event; Hanks to Star
Legally Blonde's Bailey Hanks will head the cast of an April 5 presentation of Speargrove Presents, the new musical that explores a cancelled high school production of Jonathan Larson's Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent.

Legally Blonde's Bailey Hanks.
Legally Blonde's Bailey Hanks. Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The New York Theatre Barn, which has been actively developing the musical, will present the one-night-only 8 PM performance that also celebrates the third anniversary of the organization. The performance will take place at the Julia Miles Theatre.

In addition to Hanks, Speargrove will include Kristin Huffman (Company), Briana Carlson-Goodman (Hair), Timothy J. Alex (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Kai Chapman, Sarah Cooney, Kendal Hartse, Michael Mahany (High School Musical), Kilty Reidy (The Drowsy Chaperone), Tina Stafford and Hernando Umana.

NYTB artistic director Joe Barros told "It was important to the company that we explore various communities dealing with a major issue that would ultimately bring them together in the end. We were immediately drawn to stories about media circuses. After much planning, I finally mentioned that there had been a small Texas town that drew some controversy over a high school production of the recently published school version of Rent. There were similar incidents in Las Vegas (where the school district actually went to court accused of causing “irreparable harm”), California, etc. Shortly thereafter, I contacted the drama teacher of the Rowlett, Texas incident who graciously began sharing further details with me and the team. It was this teacher who told me that he chose Rent for the school musical because it had inspired him and his students, and since it was so special to them both it felt like the perfect fit."

He continued, "Why is it that parents want to shelter and protect their children from things they already know about? Are parents okay exposing their children to adult issues as long as they are the ones exposing their children to them? Our show presents the idea that parents and their children must communicate in order for a community to thrive, or even survive. But in the end, it is the children who discover that they have the power to make their own choices, as life is all about choices."

Speargrove has a book by Sammy Buck (Like You Like It), with music and lyrics by Dan Acquisto, Buck, Barbara Anselmi, John Bronston, Michele Brourman, Sam Carner, Brian Feinstein, Derek Gregor, Brandon James Gwinn, Rob Hartmann, Will Larche, Gordon Leary, Sheilah Rae, Joshua Robinson, Charlie Sohne and Sam Willmott. The musical takes inspiration from a Texas high school production of Rent: School Edition, which was cancelled prior to its opening night after parents and members of the community took issue with the musical's subject matter that includes poverty, drug abuse, the HIV/AIDS crisis, homosexuality, as well as, community, love and self-expression.

Joe Barros and Laura Brandel direct. Sam Willmott serves as music supervisor and orchestrator with musical direction by Lilli Wosk.

For tickets, beginning at $40, phone (866) 811-4111. The Julia Miles Theatre is located at 424 W. 55th Street in Manhattan.

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