RENT: The Broadway Tour – Returns to the Curran Theatre

Pivotal theatre piece keeps AIDS in the spotlight

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Producers Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum and Allan S. Gordon have announced that stars Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Gwen Stewart will reprise the roles they originated on Broadway in RENT: The Broadway Tour. Tickets are now on sale for the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical written by Jonathan Larson. RENT returns to San Francisco beginning Tuesday, October 6th through Sunday, October 18th at the Curran Theatre. The show is presented as a special attraction of the 2008-2009 Best of Broadway series season under the direction of Carole Shorenstein Hays. Based on Puccini’s timeless opera, La Boheme, the simple story of a group of struggling artists is transported to modern day New York City during the winter holidays. RENT opened at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre, on April 29, 1996, following a history making, sold-out, extended-limited engagement at off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop. The musical went on to win every major best musical award, including the Tony Award, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama. RENT played its final performance at the Nederlander Theatre on September 7, 2008 after playing 5,124 performances and 16 previews. RENT is the eighth-longest-running show in Broadway history and grossed more than $280 million during its Broadway run.

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RENT – The Broadway Tour Cast. Photo, Joan Marcus

Joining Pascal, Rapp and Stewart, are Nicolette Hart (Maureen Johnson), Justin Johnston (Angel Schunard), Lexi Lawson (Mimi Marquez), Michael McElroy (Tom Collins), Jacques C. Smith (Benjamin Coffin III), and Haneefah Wood (Joanne Jefferson). The ensemble is rounded out by Karmine Alers, Toby Blackwell, Adam Halpin, Trisha Jeffrey, Joshua Kobak, Telly Leung, Jed Resnick, Andy Señor, Caren Tackett, Yuka Takara and John Watson.

Pascal and Rapp originated the roles of “Roger Davis” and “Mark Cohen”, Stewart grabbed the hearts of everyone as the “Seasons of Love” soloist at the New York Theatre Workshop and then on Broadway. Justin Johnston, Michael McElroy and Gwen Stewart were all members of the final company of RENT, which played its last performance on Broadway on September 7, 2008.

RENT: The Broadway Tour is directed by Michael Greif, who received 1996 Tony and Drama Desk nominations as well as the Obie Award for RENT. Marlies Yearby, who received a Tony Award nomination for her work on the musical, choreographs the show and Tim Weil, the show’s original music supervisor and conductor, serves as music supervisor.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Adam Pascal – In 1996, Adam auditioned for the then unknown, off- Broadway production of Rent. He landed the role of Roger Davis – one which he would reprise a few years later in London, in the 2005 movie version, and again 11 years later for a limited run on Broadway during the summer of 2007. He was nominated for a 1996 Tony Award as Best Actor for that role. In 2000, Adam appeared as Radames in Elton John and Tim Rice’s new Broadway musical Aida, and he co-produced the hit off-Broadway play Fully Committed with fellow former Rent cast member, Jesse L. Martin. In October 2003, Adam once again visited the Broadway stage, this time, as the Emcee in the Sam Mendes/Rob Marshall production of Cabaret at Studio 54, as part of the closing cast. Most recently, Adam played Freddie Trumper in the Tim Rice/Abba Musical Chess, alongside Josh Groban, and Idina Menzel for two sold out performances at The Royal Albert Hall in London. Adam has three solo CDs “Model Prisoner;” “Civilian;” and “Blinding Light” with his band “Me and Larry.” In 2007, Adam guest starrred on the popular children’s show “The Backyardigans.” Look for Adam in the upcoming theatrical releases, “Goyband” and “American Primitive,”

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Adam Pascal & Lexi Lawson, Michael McElroy & Justin Johnston. Photo, Joan Marcus

Anthony Rapp – is best known for creating the role of Mark Cohen in Rent‘s original workshop, Off-Broadway, Broadway, Chicago, and London productions. He also appeared in the feature film version. Other Broadway credits include: Precious Sons (Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk nomination), Six Degrees of Separation and the revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Off-Broadway credits include: Some Americans Abroad, Rent (Obie Award for ensemble, NYTW); Raised in Captivity (Vineyard); Trafficking in Broken Hearts (Atlantic Theatre Co.); Sophistry (Playwrights Horizons); The Destiny of Me; Private Jokes, Public Places; and Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell. Regional credits include: Little Shop of Horrors (1st Nat. Tour); his brother Adam’s plays Nocturne (Berkeley Rep) and Gompers (Pittsburgh’s City Theatre); and the title roles in Henry V (Commonwealth Shakespeare Co.) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (City Theatre). Film and television credits include Love And Other Impossible Pursuits, Adventures in Babysitting, School Ties, Dazed and Confused, Six Degrees of Separation, David Searching, Man of the Century, Road Trip, A Beautiful Mind (SAG nomination for ensemble), Winter Passing, Open House, “The Lazarus Man,” “The X-Files,” “Law & Order: SVU,” and “Kidnapped.” Over the last several years, in addition to his work as an actor, Anthony has released a solo CD entitled “Look Around;” written a New York Times bestselling memoir of his experiences on and offstage during his initial Rent run, entitled “Without You” (Simon & Schuster) (also adapted for the stage at City Theatre); joined the board of directors for Friends In Deed; lectured and taught extensively at schools around the country; and directed the South African premiere of Rent in Johannesburg.

Gwen Stewart created several roles in the original production of RENT, including introducing the solo vocals for the show’s central theme, “Seasons of Love.” Her other theatre credits include the recent Tony-nominated revival of Big River, Starmites, Suds, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Wiz, Avenue X and Abyssinia. Stewart’s film and television work includes “Notes From the Underbelly,” “Related,” “Law & Order,” “Charmed,” “All My Children,” “Moesha,” “24,” “Strong Medicine,” “The Guardian,” Down To Earth, and Personals.

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Justin Johnston, Gwen Stewart and Adam Pascal

Nicolette Hart – Broadway credits include RENT, Legally Blonde, and The Wedding Singer. Her TV and film credits include “Law and Order,” “Lipstick Jungle,” “Veronika Decides To Die,” “Love and Other Impossible Pursuits” and “Cherry Crush.”

Justin Johnston played Angel Schunard in the final Broadway company of RENT and can be seen with the closing cast in “Rent Filmed Live on Broadway.”

Michael McElroy played Tom Collins in the final Broadway company of RENT. His Broadway credits include Wild Party, Big River (Tony and Drama Desk nominations), The Who’s Tommy, Miss Saigon, Patti LuPone on Broadway, and High Rollers. McElroy’s TV credits include “Love Monkey,” “All My Children,” and “Spin City.”

Jacques C. Smith made his Broadway debut as Benny in RENT. His TV credits include “CSI: Miami,” “ER,” HBO’s “OZ,” PBS’s Emmy-winning “American Masters” series “Ralph Ellison: An American Journey,” “The Division,” and “Law and Order.”

Haneefah Wood – Broadway credits include RENT, Avenue Q, and Brooklyn. She originated roles in the workshops of Shrek and Good Vibrations. Her film and television credits include “Freedomland,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” “Strong Medicine,” and “Days of Our Lives.”          
      
San Francisco’s unique relationship with RENT began in March 1999 when the American rock musical opened and played an extended-6 month engagement at the Golden Gate Theatre through September 1999. The show returned to San Francisco for three special engagements in 2001, 2002 and 2006 playing to devoted Bay Area RENT fans. And then it was a special coup for San Francisco in 2005, when the motion picture adaptation of RENT was filmed in San Francisco with filming in soundstages at Treasure Island and in the SOMA district neighborhood.

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Haneefah Wood and Anthony Rapp. Photo, Joan Marcus

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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