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HomeArts/LeisureBroadway's RENT finale rocks into local theater for limited screening

Broadway’s RENT finale rocks into local theater for limited screening

RENT: The Broadway Finale, is screening at Great Escape Cinema at 7 p.m., September 24, and at noon on the 27-28.

When the first televised ad for the movie version of Broadway’s RENT cabled into our home a couple of years ago, my eldest granddaughter heard the strains of Seasons of Love and the verdict was in: a die hard fan was born and the film version hadn’t yet been released. Yes, we saw RENT (the movie) together, several times, applauded, cried, let the music run through our minds on instant replay. Last summer that granddaughter, Brandi, accompanied Clarksville Online to the live production of RENT at T-PAC in Nashville. Clutching the programs and her newly acquired T-shirt with RENT splayed across the front, Brandi sat with us, mesmerized by this piece of Broadway that had fallen our backyard, so to speak.

RENT closed in New York in June, with a spectacular finale that was filmed in its entirety. That closing night production was captured on film, and arrived in Clarksville Wednesday night for the first of four screenings. Brandi (wearing her RENT T-Shirt), her sister Rochelle, and Clarksville Online were there for every last note. This type of production, like the Met performances which also originate in New York City, run about $20 a ticket, much more than the average movie ticket. But you get what you pay for, but in the case of this Broadway finale of RENT, it would have been worth it at twice the price. And we each want our own DVD of this production.

Cast of RENT in the closing Broadway performance, now caught on film for the world to see

Like the The Met Live in HD, which local theaters do not have an interest in screening, this kind of film is the closest thing to front row center on Broadway. The intricate camera work not only stays focused on the stage as a whole but circumnavigates the action with stunning close-ups that reveal the power and the passion and the joy of this musical.

RENT is Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical, one of the longest running shows on Broadway.

Set in New York City’s gritty East Village, the revolutionary rock opera RENT tells the story of a group of bohemians struggling to live and pay their rent. “Measuring their lives in love,” these starving artists strive for success and acceptance while enduring the obstacles of poverty, illness and the AIDS epidemic. The subject is tough, gritty, and not for young audiences, but it is a modern musical marvel.

Played on a single multidimensional set, the story begins on Christmas and ends on the following Christmas Eve. Through that passage of time, one character, the doomed Angel, enters on a whirlwind, touching the lives of every character with love. The music includes the poignant “Without You,” “I’ll Cover You,” and “Will I“,  the vibrant “You’re Living in America“, a rowdy “La Vie Boheme,” and the finale “No Day But Today.”

The creators of RENT pulled together a cast of storng voices; there are no weak spots, even among the supporting players. The subject matter, the performers, the staging and the music is all strength and power,  and it wrings emotion right out of the viewer.

As the show exploded before us, we were all mouthing the lyrics, tapping our feet to its rhythms, humming along, and, at intermission, sharing our RENT experiences with others in the audience.

This production stars Will Chase, Adam Kantor, Michael McElroy, Rodney Hicks, Tracie Thomas, Justin Johnston, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Eden Espinosa, and is directed by Michael Grief.

The Roxy Regional Theater will close its 2008-09 season next summer with a staging of this show.

*This stage presentation addresses adult themes and controversial issues. It is not recommended for children.

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