By Potoula Anagnostakos
Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor
This past weekend, Post Theatre Company brought their production of Jonathan Larson’s Tony Award winning musical, “RENT,” to our campus’ Little Theatre. Based loosely on Puccini’s “La Boheme,” this Pulitzer Prize winning rock musical is centered on a group of destitute bohemian artists struggling to survive in New York City’s East Village under the shadow of AIDS. These artists strive and strain to create better lives for themselves and to create better art, while enduring poverty, disease, loss, heartbreak, and the fear of loneliness. Themes of heavy subjects like drugs, sexuality, and death, and the score’s gut-wrenching power ballads and heavy rock numbers made Larson’s brainchild an American musical theatre classic. The show opened on Broadway in 1996 and became a hit. Closing in 2008, “RENT” became the tenth longest-running Broadway show at the time.
Jamie Boswell, a senior Musical Theatre major, portrays Roger, an AIDS-stricken former rock star, who is also fighting a heroin addiction. “I like that Roger, despite everything he’s gone through, is really a strong spirit even though he may not feel like it,” said Boswell. “He fights every day and never stops fighting even though he thinks he wants to. I like that he fights to be true to himself and fights for his art. But with that fight, he comes across as selfish in a lot of ways; that’s probably the thing I don’t like about him. I think Roger is a bit unaware of the big picture at the beginning of the show, but it’s completely justified because of what he’s gone through.”
Boswell discussed the challenges in playing this character. “There’s been many challenges: trying to embody Roger, who is so different from myself, is one. Learning to play a bit of guitar was another challenge,” he explained. “Singing in the pop-rock genre has been tough doing so often, especially with the little amount of sleep I’ve been able to get; it takes a lot of energy.”
“This has probably been one of the smoothest and surprisingly fastest processes I’ve been in here at Post,” continued Boswell, regarding the rehearsal process. “We began with a few days of music rehearsals, did a couple of days of table work, then hit the ground running with blocking the entire show. In the midst of blocking, we’ve also shown some personal character work to the cast. It’s really been amazing. I’m proud to be a part of this show and proud of everyone involved. I think this show is going to be something spectacular and bring in audiences of all walks of life.”
Sophomore Musical Theatre major Ethan Dodd plays Roger’s roommate Mark, an independent filmmaker who is working to make a movie with a purpose as well as make a name for himself. “I’ve connected to Mark for a very long time, so it’s been an interesting journey,” explained Dodd. “I love the drive that he has and the passion he has for his art. I don’t necessarily dislike anything about him, I prefer to try and keep my insight on my characters more positive.
It’s a physically demanding show, and at times I struggle to balance supporting the breath I need throughout the show and running everywhere, but the challenge is an excellent learning opportunity.”
Dodd went on to discuss the rehearsal process. “The rehearsal process has been a collaboration between the cast, our director, Ray Zilberberg, and our music director, Nick Myers,” he describes. “It’s been exciting to get to put our own insights and opinions in the show as guided by our directors.”
“RENT” has been a fan favorite amongst musical theatre enthusiasts for many years. Its dynamic characters, memorable score and messages of love, friendship, and courage have resonated with die- hard fans, lovingly called “Rent-heads” since its opening.
“‘RENT’ is a statement piece in a lot of ways,” said Dodd. “It makes statements on American capitalism and AIDS that I agree with and that have really inspired me ever since I first began listening to the cast album.”
Boswell also discussed his connection with the show. “‘RENT’ means so much more to me than I thought it would,” he explained. “You think of ‘RENT’ as the super Broadway smash hit, but when you’re a part of it, you realize there’s so much more to it. I think ‘RENT’ resonates with so many people because it strikes a chord in a plethora of different ways. It’s about love, death, moving on, fighting to survive, and the truth of AIDS and how it can affect everyone.”
Dodd added, “Our production of ‘RENT’ is different in that some of the music has been slightly altered, and we’re focusing heavily on the acting and [the] development of characters and their relationships. We’re hoping to bring a new life to a landmark show in musical theatre history.”
Don’t miss out on “RENT!” The final performances are Nov. 12- 16, all shows at 7:30 p.m. except a 3:00 p.m. matinee on Nov. 16 and an additional 2:00 p.m. matinee on Nov. 14. Contact the Little Theatre Mainstage at 516-299-2356 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s time to live “La Vie Boheme.”