ACT of CT stages award-winning 'time-capsule' show ‘Rent’

It was back on January 25, 1996, when “Rent,” a new musical by a virtually unknown writer, opened Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop. The landscape of theater changed forever.

“Rent” went on to Broadway, taking home the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and has enjoyed a long life in the theater, on film and even a live television special. Now, ACT of Connecticut will stage its own production of “Rent” from May 26 through June 19, under the direction of Daniel C. Levine.

Written and created by the late Jonathan Larson, the musical, loosely based on Puccini’s “La Bohème,” tells the story of the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out, while creating a life in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

"Rent" will be staged at ACT of Connecticut May 26 through June 19. 

"Rent" will be staged at ACT of Connecticut May 26 through June 19. 

Courtesy of ACT of CT

Levine saw the show with the original cast when he was an actor performing on Broadway and recalls being deeply impacted.

“When ‘Rent’ first opened on Broadway, I was performing in the Broadway production of ‘Les Miserables,’ and our entire company was invited to see one of the earlier previews,” Levine said. “While watching, I remember having the feeling that I was witnessing something very special and I was so very proud and honored to be a part of such a remarkable community of storytellers.”

Over the years, Levine worked with many of the original “Rent” cast members and he loves listening to the stories about the rehearsal period from the people who were actually there in the room.

For the ACT of CT production, Levine described “Rent” as a “time capsule;” a show which encompasses a period of time that it was written in and deals with subject matter specific to that decade and generation — though parallels certainly exist today.

“I think that attempting to ‘set’ the show in any other location or time period is a disservice to the piece,” he said. “I have stayed very true to the original production’s intent. While I definitely put my own spin on the production, I was not interested in reconceiving the show. A wonderful detail of ACT of CT is our intimate space and turntable stage, and those who are familiar with the original production will definitely feel as though they are seeing a much more up close and personal production of the show.”

Levine added that although “Rent” explores subject matter specific to the 1990’s, it is hard not to see the similarities in today’s world.

“While in rehearsals, I was reminded that the show’s message remains incredibly relevant today,” he said. “Rent is a timeless musical whose themes of love, loss and the value of community bridge generational gaps. The show emphasizes the importance of individuality, inclusion and acceptance.” 

The show stars Ben Bogen as Mark, Paloma D’Auria as Maureen, Gordia Hayes as Collins, Paola V. Hernández as Mimi, Luis Herrera as Benny, Amber Hurst Martin as Joanne, Devin Price as Angel, Austin Turner as Roger, and will feature Joshua Bess, India Boone, Dalon Bradley, Nicolas Garza, Natalie Lilavois Yusty, Jade Litaker and Justin Phillips.

For more information about ACT of CT or to purchase tickets, visit actofct.org.