Rent speaks to LGBTQ millennials

By Seth Reines, June 2019 Issue.

In 1996, an

original rock musical by a little-known composer opened on Broadway and forever

changed the landscape of American theater. Rent became the Hamilton

of its day. Now, over two decades later, Jonathan Larson’s Rent continues

to speak loudly and defiantly to audiences across generations and around the


Larson’s re-imagining of Puccini’s La

Bohème follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists

struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. With its inspiring

message of joy and hope at the height of the AIDS crisis, this timeless

celebration of friendship and creativity reminds audiences to measure their

lives with the only thing that truly matters — love.

Larson wrote, “In these dangerous times, where it seems that the world is ripping apart at the seams, we all can learn how to survive from those who stare death squarely in the face every day and we should reach out to each other and bond as a community, rather than hide from the terrors of life at the end of the millennium.”

Chase McCall


message continues to touch audiences of all generations. This past January, his

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning masterpiece was broadcast on network TV

as Rent: live. And

May 28-June 2, the show’s 20th Anniversary Tour plays ASU’s Gammage


Recently, Echo discussed the impact Rent

has on millennial audiences with two of the tour’s out cast members, Chase

McCall and Sean Ryan. (Chase plays Steve and understudies Rent’s two

male leads Roger and Mark. Sean also covers Mark plus all the ensemble roles

and serves as the tour’s dance captain, maintaining the integrity of Marlies

Yearby’s choreography.)

Echo: Why do you think there is such a recent interest in the show?

Chase: I think there has always been an interest in this show, which is

why the 20th Anniversary Tour is happening right now. We get a wide range of

audience members from those who saw it when it first opened on Broadway and are

now bringing their own children to experience the show to those have seen the

movie but never on stage. I may be new to the Rent family, but it feels

like the interest has always been there!

Echo: Why is it important for LGBTQ millennials to see this show?

Chase: They need to know their history. Where the “LGBTQ” came from and

what they’ve been through. And, then, making the choice to learn more about the

LGBTQ community before the ‘90s. The AIDS crisis has become more manageable,

but it is still an epidemic and it’s very important not to forget that. 

Sean Ryan.

Sean: It’s also valuable and powerful for LGBTQ millennials to come to a

show and see characters who, just like them, are living their true, authentic

lives and being accepted for it.

Echo: What feedback have you gotten

from LGBTQ millennial audience members?

Chase: They say how much they connect with certain characters, which is

fascinating because these are based on people living their adult lives in the

late ‘90s. You wouldn’t think millennials would be able to relate to characters

from over 20 years ago, but they still find the similarities and that is a

truly beautiful thing. 

Sean: Millennial audience members that come to see the show love it! The

sense of community and love resonates with all different age groups young and


Echo: How does being in Rent affect you emotionally?

Sean: Performing the show is such an emotional rollercoaster. There are

so many highs and lows! I get very choked up when we sing a song like “I’ll

Cover You,” but, then, I’m smiling from ear to ear when we get to “Finale.”

Chase: Emotionally, it affects me in many different ways. Not only

experiencing what happens in the story, but also what happens off stage. I

understudy both Mark and Roger, and I have to be ready at a moment’s notice. I

make my day to day decisions based on if it’s in the show’s best interest. As

much as I love performing as my career, at the end of the day it is my job and

I have to execute it to the best of my abilities.

Echo: Did TV’s recent Rent: Live differ from your


Sean: TV’s Rent: Live had the same great story, but we do it live

eight times a week. And nothing compares to seeing it live in a theater.

Chase: Of course it was different, because there were cameras in all of

the actors’ faces. I am happy to know it exposed people around the world to the

show in a way it never had before, but there is something special about the way

Jonathan Larson originally saw and conceived it onstage, and that’s exactly

what our touring production does. 

Rent 20th anniversary touring company, by Carol Rosegg.

For tickets to Rent’s iconic 20th

Anniversary Tour, contact

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