No day but today: RENT’s Nashville Revival
The first time I saw Rent, it was at the Roxy Theatre in Clarksville. I had been out of the closet for less than a year. I was told that I had to go see it as a rite of passage into being a gay man. I remember the music, the choreography, and how wonderful it was to see gay people portrayed on stage. I then proceeded to watch the movie version and download the album, even learning “Take Me Baby” for karaoke night to sing with a friend. Since the first time I saw it, I've had a special place in my heart for this show.
I may have seen the movie version a couple of times since then, but it never quite had the same effect as the live show did the first time I saw it. But other than having some of the songs memorized, I haven’t thought an awful lot about it until TPAC announced Rent was part of its season line-up. I've been excited for it ever since, but I refused to watch the movie or do anything to remind me about it prior to my cast interview last week, and even then, I only listened to Angel’s “Today for You” in preparation of my interview with David Merino, this cast’s Angel.
For those of you who haven’t seen it (if there are those of you that exist), Rent is the story of a group of starving artists who have forged a friendship in New York City in the throes of the AIDS crisis. The story begins on Christmas Eve, 1989. We follow this cast through their lives over the course of a year. Through love, relationships, break ups, protests, sickness, and loss, the audience learns how this motley crew becomes stronger together and how your family is sometimes who you choose it to be.
For this very young cast, the bonds they are striking are visible. The chemistry of each character interaction throughout the course of the show is electric. They have obviously gotten to know each other very well throughout the course of this production. These bonds allow the audience to be drawn in, leaving whatever is going on around them to be forgotten and to focus solely on the brilliance that is happening on stage. The choreography is tight, the wit is quick, and the emotions are seen in each cast member’s eyes. They work well together as a team.
Notable moments include:
- “Today for You” by David Merino’s Angel is everything you could hope for. Spinning, dancing, kicking, drumming… It is just a ton of fun to see and experience. It left me wanting to shout “yaaaaasssss qwweeeeeeeennnnnn!!!!!” This being Merino’s professional debut, sometimes it’s a crap shoot. Consider the bet as a major pay off. His energy and charisma made him a PERFECT fit for Angel. The show is worth seeing if no other reason than to be able to say you saw him "when." I will be shocked if we don’t see him accepting a Tony someday in the very near future.
- “Take Me or Leave Me” performed last night by Katie Lamark as Maureen and swing Alexis Louise Young playing JoAnne was sexier, more provocative, and downright hotter than any other version I’ve seen. Katie Lamark’s fiery red hair translates into passion on stage and, honey, you best just be prepared for that moment. And even though we didn’t get the usual JoAnne, we missed out on nothing. These actresses had red-hot chemistry that could have made even the straightest woman question herself for a moment.
- Something in this version was different between Mimi and Roger. I didn’t realize until after the show when I was talking with other patrons, but it may have been why I was more into the storyline of the character Mimi, played masterfully by Skyler Volpe. Normally, I get lost with the role, but when Mimi would be visibly afraid of Roger, played by Kaleb Wells, it made Roger as a role a little darker. Also, it made you question more of Mimi’s past as to why she would be so visibly afraid. That addition was slight, but very noticeable and added so much to a storyline I sometimes have a hard time following.
This play is iconic in the gay community, obviously. But this production is something the Nashville LGBTQ population needs to see. Especially those of us who didn’t live through the horrific time that was the AIDS crisis. The millennial generation was born at the height of the crisis and was not exposed to the fight that forged the community we are slowly inheriting. It is imperative to know the history of how we got to where we are today, especially the way things have changed since then. Too often, we dismiss people with HIV as people who did something inherently wrong and weren’t smart. This show is a stark reminder that anyone can get AIDS, and it could be you, your best friend, your neighbor… Anyone. And now, as this generation has more protection than ever before, thanks to PREP, we need to remember how we got here.
This show is very entertaining, but also an incredible lesson. It’s a lesson we need to be reminded of. And now is the perfect time to take it. And it doesn’t hurt that the cast is one of the most talented groups of young actors and actresses I’ve seen in ages. You owe it to yourself. If you’re not even into theater. You need this as a history lesson.
The show runs through Sunday with tickets still available. Also, don’t forget that if you come Friday night, Nashville HRC is hosting a pre-show cocktail hour with members of the cast and free hors d’oeuvres from 417 Union and truffles from Flat Rock Coffee, Tea, and More. Buy tickets here