In 1996, an original rock musical opened on Broadway and forever changed the landscape of North American theatre. TaDa! Events presents the NL premiere of the full Broadway production of this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning masterpiece
La vie Bohème is coming to Newfoundland and Labrador in the form of RENT, the musical. An emotionally wrenching rock musical, RENT is a modern-day re-imagining of Puccini’s opera, La Bohème, which was transformed by Jonathan Larson into a book featuring original music and lyrics.
The story follows a group of bohemian young artists in the 1990s, struggling to create a life and survive in the East Village of New York City, under the shadows of poverty, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS.
The musical’s initial Off-Broadway opening was at the New York Theatre Workshop in New York City, eventually moving to Broadway’s exponentially larger Nederlander Theatre, where it went on to gain critical acclaim and won several awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and three Tony Awards. In 2005, the musical went into production for a motion picture adaptation and featured most of the original cast members.
Through the captivating and controversial storyline of RENT, comes multiple timeless messages and positive takeaways. Following the lives of eight main characters comes the core message that in times of adversity and difficult circumstances you can choose love, kindness and life. You can embrace community, and form bonds that are stronger than the circumstances themselves. As they say in RENT, “share love, give love, spray love, measure your life in love.”
Now, in March of 2018, the masterpiece will be at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s, presented by TaDa! Events and directed by the incredibly talented Terri Andrews. The Newfoundland Herald sat down for a one-on-one interview with Andrews, and three of the cast members; Sabrina Roberts who plays Mimi Marquez, Steve Maloney in the role of Roger Davis, and Gita Wigdorchik as Maureen Johnson.
“I’ve been resisting doing RENT for several years. Everybody wanted to do RENT, or wanted RENT to be done,” Andrews explained.
“But, it’s kind of a daunting one as far as shows go. It’s not at all frivolous, and it’s a very relevant piece of theatre. I was just waiting for the right time to do it. We chose to take it on now because there were the right people available and some of the themes in this show made it seem like now was an important time to shed some light on some of the issues. More so now than ever, this show is very relevant.”
Plethora of Talent
With a full cast of only 24, including the eight named roles, there was no shortage of people auditioning for their opportunity to land a role in the upcoming production.
“It is truly an ensemble, because it doesn’t matter if you’re a named character or not, you are on that stage and doing a lot of stuff. We booked out two days for auditions, and ended up with six. We could have cast this show four times over. It was hard to pick who was going to be in the roles because there was a plethora of talent here,” Andrews shared.
Much of the cast is born and raised, proud Newfoundlanders. However, many are also relocated come from aways who appreciate the culture and opportunities in Newfoundland just as much as our very own.
“People don’t necessarily know the level of talent that is in Newfoundland, and I can tell you now, this is the craziest cast,” Gita Wigdorchik, who plays Maureen, explained.
“These are the most amazing performers. Coming from Toronto, I didn’t really know what I was gonna walk into. I knew that there was a lot of talent here, but holy moly was my mind ever blown. Newfoundland is like the best kept secret of Canada, and I feel like it should stay that way too, just sayin’. For all the big city folks that think that they’re better, or think that Newfoundland is worse, or are just like ‘meh, fishermen’ stereotyping or whatever, they are completely wrong. This place is amazing.”
Steve, who plays the roll of Roger and is a “local St. John’s boy” added that, “being in this production has given me a new sense of confidence and courage. I’m a pretty quiet fella I suppose, and this has been great for sort of breaking out of the shell. It’s been fun to reconnect with something I haven’t done in like ten years, and friggin’ belt a few tunes man, it’s awesome.”
“The last audition for Mimi, they told us ok, we know you can sing, we know you can dance, we know you can act, now we wanna see the chemistry,” Sabrina, in the role of Mimi, recalled.
“They had already picked Steve as Roger, so they said well, who does he work with. They had all this talent and thank god I was picked but, it all came down to chemistry. Imagine. You were done the talent part, and it came down to the chemistry, and what works now.”
When it comes to musicals, or any form of production, you can have the most talented performers in the world, but if there’s no chemistry, there’s no breathtaking performance. Sitting in a room with three of the eight main roles and the director reassured me that RENT presented by TaDa! will be nothing short of breathtaking. The chemistry filled the room and was inspiringly tangible.
“Usually they walk out of the room and you know whether the chemistry was there or not. You can feel it. When it crackles, it crackles, and that has to say something to you. It reads big time.”
RENT lands on March 15-17. Tickets are on sale now, and selling quickly. For tickets and more info, please visit the St. John’s Art and Culture Centre website www.artsandculturecentre.com/stjohns