Rent 20th Anniversary TourFeature Story, Section 4A, Entertainment News Thursday, January 5th, 2017
The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical is coming to San Diego
In 1993 the musical RENT premiered Off Broadway. The show was written by the late Jonathan Larson and is about a group of young struggling artists living in the East Village neighborhood of Alphabet City during the height of the AIDS crisis.
In 1989, Larson was approached by playwright Billy Aaronson and was asked to collaborate on a project that would update the opera La bohème. Larson moved the location of the musical and came up with the title of the show. Aaronson wasn’t in agreement with the title until Larson explained that “rent” also means “torn apart”. The show is also loosely based on many real-life Larson experiences that prompted the writer to ask if he could take over writing the show. He agreed to give Aaronson credit only if the show went to Broadway.
The show went through many rewrites over a three-year period then was set to open and run Off Broadway. Larson sadly died the day before the first preview of that run. He suffered from an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome. The show opened and ran through its original engagement to sold out crowds and was extended numerous times until it eventually moved to the Nederland Theatre on Broadway in April of 1996. It had a 12-year run with over 5,000 performances.
The show has toured nationally in the states and has had numerous productions worldwide including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Greece, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, Australia, Guam, New Zealand, Israel, Puerto Rico, Austria, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Czech Republic. It has also been performed in 25 different languages.
Starting Jan. 10 for one week only the show that was nominated for ten Tony Awards (winning 4), will be coming to San Diego.
The show has obviously seen many different actors in roles that were created over 20 years ago. The current national tour is giving a cast of 20 the chance to step into the shoes of some very iconic characters. Fourteen of them are experiencing their first time on the road.
Playing the role of Tom Collins, played by Jesse L. Martin on Broadway and in the film, is Aaron Harrington who is not only making his national tour debut, but is also a newcomer to musical theater as well. It’s an experience the performer is enthusiastically enjoying.
“It’s been an amazing experience so far,” Harrington shared. “[It’s] nothing I’ve ever been lucky enough to witness before!”
Even though the tour has only been running for four months Harrington has had both ups and downs on the tour so far.
“Best experience would definitely be between performing in my hometown of Durham, North Carolina, and performing in Tokyo, Japan,” Harrington said. “Worst experience was when I was out sick for three days because of some weird stomach virus; very painful!”
Harrington may be a “newbie” of sorts to the musical theater stage, but this will be the second time the actor has played the role of Tom Collins, an anarchist professor who suffers from the AIDS disease.
“I never knew musical theater was what I wanted to do,” Harrington admitted. “It was just not something that I grew up around. I’m blessed to have been selected for this role on two separate occasions, and I’m sure had I known about this role when I was younger, it would’ve been a dream role.”
Harrington also admits that even though he’s done the show twice he has never seen the show on stage before. He did, however, prep for the role with the help of the World Wide Web.
“I still haven’t officially seen RENT live,” Harrington said. “But, I saw the YouTube version back in 2015 to prep for the rehearsals the first time around, and I’d seen the movie recently as well.”
RENT, if anything, does show the strength that exists between friends and lovers, no matter what ups and downs may present themselves. This is something Harrington points out when asked what he appreciates most about the show.
“How genuine these people were to one another,” Harrington said. “Despite going through their own personal struggle, they really relied on the provided support within their circle.”
Given the 20 years the show has been out there, it’s obvious that the millions of casts and fans who’ve seen the show all have a favorite part of the show; the scene, or song that just does it for them. Harrington’s favorite part offers people a chance to see what it’s like to be onstage in the historic musical.
“As silly as this may sound, the finale,” Harrington admitted. “When we’re all looking up at the projector of ourselves. It just is a constant reminder of how far we’ve come, not only as a cast, but individually, and how much we’ve grown.”
As most RENT-heads (and cast members) know, this show can be brutal on those vocal chords. It’s a score that has been a proven challenge for many performers. For Harrington, his most challenging part is two-fold.
“Hands down, comfortably singing the I’ll Cover You reprise,” Harrington said. “And, being able to keep my emotions together. That song could send you to so many places, but it took time to get myself to realize that I’m telling a story, and a very very popular one at that.”
Harrington has admitted that while he never planned on a musical theater career, that if he had, the role of Tom Collins would most likely have been his dream role to play. Now that he’s had a chance to play the role twice, Harrington is sure that it’s the right role for him, but if he had to choose another role in the show to play he’d opt to play the sell-out yuppie scum of the show.
“Tom is the role for me,” Harrington confided. “I truly believe that. However, if I had to pick another role, it would be Benny. Their roles contrast each other so much, so it’d be interesting to step on the opposite end of the spectrum.”
Harrington is also looking forward to his week in sunny San Diego as it will be his first time on the West Coast.
“I have never been on West Coast,” Harrington said. “I am beyond excited to be in beautiful San Diego. Sightseeing and getting familiar with the city are my top priorities.”
As mentioned earlier, RENT will be here for one week only from Jan. 10-15 performing eight shows. For tickets you can check out broadwaysd.com, call the Civic Theatre box office at 619-570-1100, or you can stop by the Civic Theatre box office located at 1100 Third Avenue (3rd Ave and B Street – Civic Concourse) Monday-Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
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