In 1994, the New York Theater Workshop did a 3 week run of Rent. Twenty years later, Jonathan Larson’s opus is played throughout the world with a single message of love. On January 25, 1996, the evening before the premiere of the Off-Broadway production of Rent, Jonathan Larson died suddenly of an aortic dissection. This tragic event resonated through the entire acting and creative community, but more importantly enforced his message of love, family and “No Day But Today”. Twenty years later, the community theater company Flowertown Players in historic Summerville, SC is sharing the magic of Rent with South Carolina for only the second time ever.
As an avid fan and an amateur Rent fanatic, this was my tenth performance in three states over twelve years, including sixth row center on Broadway at the Nederlander Theater. With all the anticipation and nervousness of seeing my first “community” presentation, this was truly a memorable and emotional evening.
The musical score from high above the elaborate stage was played incredibly well by Cathy Almquist, Raymond Sutton Tobey, Kelly Farmer and Micha Otto and complimented the talented actors that carried the legacy and beauty of Rent so well.
Giulia Maria Dalbec and Cody Smith’s portrayal of Mimi and Roger was saturated with pure and unadulterated emotion. During some of their more passionate moments, including the stirring finale of No Day But Today, tears not only filtered through the actors, but you could hear it from the audience. Light My Candle added a playful flirty element to their relationship that demonstrated the intimacy that community theater can bring. As an audience member and fan, I felt the cast truly connected as they brought this play together.
Angel, played by Beaufort, SC native Jason Marion, did not disappoint. Angel over the years, has been a crowd favorite and one that has carried many a performance. Note: minor spoiler alert: The moments before Angel’s death from affects of the AIDS virus, his shaking and pain stricken face was near perfection. That scene, which included three simultaneous scenes, grabbed me and fixated my view on his final moments.
Andrew Turnbull’s portrayal of Mark added the seamless narration that created the tapestry of a year in the life of friends, lovers and family.
In its truest form, without any glamor, fanfare or sensationalism, Rent is about living each moment to the fullest filled with love, family and caring. In the wake of tragedy, it is the comfort you find in friends that will overcome it all. Tackling the epidemic of the spread of the AIDS virus in the 80’s and 90’s is such a difficult and personal story for some and the ability to convey that time with passion, laughter, love and simple connection was handled so well by this cast.
As one that has studied and followed the journey of this play, I am always humbled by the personal stories of Rent. Michelle Caulder Smith and Cody Smith, who play Maureen and Roger respectively, are happily married off stage and though they stayed in character from the opening number until the last, they were hand in hand on stage after the performance.
After the production ended and friends and family swarmed the stage to offer hugs and kisses to the cast, I noticed that many of the fans were very young and some would not have even been born during the setting of this story. Rent has transcended time and will continue to find new audiences.
Rent gives a message of hope. Whether you were a lesbian, homosexual, homeless, poor, rich or an addict, Rent accepts and opens its arms to an invitation of comfort.
If you have not had a chance to ever see Rent or musical theater, this is one show that will pull you in from the start and take you on a ride you will not soon forget. Since 1997, Flowertown players have offered Charleston an escape from reality through theater. With a level of intimacy and connection you don’t normally see in larger productions, Flowertown is a symbol of the charm and creative graces of Charleston.
Purchase Tickets for Rent – Flowertown Players
Legacy of Jonathan Larson – The Man, The Music, The Vision behind RENT