During RENT’s first reading in 1993, many were doubtful about the rock musical being brought to Broadway. Broadway audiences believed that a musical with a diverse cast of all backgrounds, orientations, and professions wouldn’t have worked as it brought forbidden content to Broadway in an era where family-friendly Disney movies were popular, but RENT prevailed as it soon became a commercial success. The musical follows the lives of struggling artists in New York’s bohemian East Village in the 90’s, dealing with identity, poverty, change, addiction, AIDS, and most of all, love.
“I chose RENT for the diverse cast, and because I’ve been wanting to do this show for 10 years since the license became available for high schools in Canada,” said Ms. Nicole Roberge. “It’s been a challenge planning a musical this big, and I need a committed directing team.”
The show was cast in October, and with 54 students participating in Musical Theatre, Roberge and Ms. Glenda Ottens had to double cast the show. The casts will alternate nightly during their performances from late February to early March. The casts include some new faces with River’s Edge technicians, Ben Kwok, Tyler Cristiano, Leah Bains, and Jamie Logue deciding to jump onstage this year. Mark, the show’s narrator, with be played by Kwok and Cristiano. Amari Lewis and Vanessa Lazare share the destructive character of Mimi, and Logan Willis and Majid Omid share the role of Roger, Mimi’s love. The iconic role of Angel, the character who is at the heart of RENT, is played by Jeffrey Luong.
River’s Edge has the help of long-time community collaborator, Krista Wallace, to help with music and vocal coaching for the musical full of 40 songs. It’s nice to have extra help when practicing, according to Roberge. It’s the first time a high school in SD43 has ever performed this play, and the cast wants to make sure everything is done accordingly.
It’s been over 20 years since RENT’s first reading in the 90’s, and many have wondered if the rock musical has lost its impact over time. “Absolutely, RENT is still relevant today. We are still amid an opioid crisis, if not an AIDS crisis,” said Roberge. “One of the reasons why we’re doing this play is because nowadays we are seeing our society open up about identity, sexuality and gender, and we can all understand how important love and belonging are to the human experience.”
With the excitement of the River’s Edge cast and crew, RENT is a must see for staff and students alike at Riverside. Showtimes are February 22 to 24, and 28, along with March 1 and 2. Tickets go on sale on January 25th and will be available through the school site and from any cast/crew member. They will be sold at lunch and are $10 for students/seniors and $12 for adults!