Tags Posts tagged with "Rent"


By Julianne Mosher

There are 525,600 reasons to head to the Smithtown Performing Arts Center and see their rendition of Rent.

Directed by Kevin Burns, the show opens in the heart of Manhattan’s East Village in the late 1980s with this exquisite rock opera originally written by Jonathan Larson. A modern-day musical, loosely inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme,” Larson created the script based on where he was living in the early 90s — in a rundown apartment with several roommates all just trying to survive and, of course, pay rent. 

Set in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, the musical follows the stories of several people, a group of friends and acquaintances, living with addiction, abuse, AIDs, homelessness and more. But despite the heavy topics, Larson’s opera-styled score brings humor and wit to situations that are not for the faint of heart. 

We open with Roger (Zach Johnson) and Mark Cohen (David Reyes), an aspiring singer and filmmaker, sitting in their cold apartment during Christmas. Roger’s girlfriend passed away and while grieving, he meets his new neighbor, Mimi (Alisa Barsch) who asks him to “light her candle” during a power outage. 

We learn of Benny (Trentin Chalmers), a friend-turned-businessman who is trying to evict the old comrades from their underwhelming living space, and we meet Tom Collins (Shiloh Bennett) who’s an anarchist professor living with HIV who falls for the positive and eccentric Angel (Ruben Fernandez), a drag queen street performer. 

Eventually we’re introduced to Maureen (Jess Ader-Ferretti), Mark’s artist ex-girlfriend who left him for Joanne (Michelle Demetillo) a strong-willed lawyer. 

This is a beautifully crafted story of love and loss. 

With a  minimalist set, each and every actor uses their talents of voice and expression to give the scenery life, plus the costumes are straight out of the Broadway musical (1996) turned film (2005). That being said, the cast is so impressive that if one were to listen to their live performance and then the recordings of the original cast, you’d think it’s the same group. 

With the band right on stage in the middle of the action, you learn of the hopes and dreams of the characters, experience loss and eventually find hope. In the three hours of viewing time, this emotional roller-coaster is definitely worth it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll experience a whole new outlook on life. 

Johnson, Reyes, Barsch, Chalmers, Bennett, Ader-Ferretti and Demetillo’s performances on opening night were stellar. The talent of the main cast deserves two thumbs up, and of course, Fernandez embodies the beautiful Angel, both in and out of drag, perfectly — plus, he can dance in heels. 

But the ensemble cast need a round of applause, too. The several roles each and every one of them play isn’t at all confusing, especially since there are several story lines happening at one given time. In fact, those in the background help ground the rest of the group and make the storylines even better.

So, go buy your tickets now because there’s “no day but today” and you deserve to go “out tonight!”

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 E. Main Street, Smithtown presents “Rent” through Oct. 22. Tickets are $35 adults, $32 seniors (55 and older), $28 students (21 and under). To order, call 1-800-595-4849 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

By Melissa Arnold

There’s nothing quite like the energy of a live performance, especially if it’s been almost two years since your last show.

The Staller Center for the Arts on the campus of Stony Brook University is as eager to welcome audiences back as showgoers are to be there. Following an abbreviated but otherwise successful fall season, their upcoming spring lineup will feature a wide mix of dancing, theatrical performances and comedy.

“I had a lot of theatrical events planned for the fall, but when we scheduled them earlier this year, we had no idea what the rules were going to be for health and safety,” said Alan Inkles, the Staller Center’s director. “So we decided to focus more on bands for the fall and concentrate on theatrical performances in the spring. It’s been smooth, and everyone is just glad to be out and enjoying the theater.”

It’s a special year for the center’s quartet-in-residence. The Emerson String Quartet recently announced they will retire in 2023 after more than 40 years of performing as one of the world’s premier chamber music ensembles. They’ll be presenting two concerts this spring on Jan. 26 and April 18.

For a quarter of a century, the Broadway rock opera Rent has broken down taboos as it chronicles a group of friends fighting poverty, discrimination and addiction in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. This fall the cast kicked off their 25th Anniversary “Farewell Season of Love” tour which will include a performance at the Staller Center on March 3.

“You never know when you’re going to be seeing a show for the last time, and with something as iconic and well-known as Rent, we want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to see a wonderful, high-quality touring production,” Inkles said.

Grace, skill and beauty are all on display this season with two unique dance companies. Complexions Ballet Company pushes the boundaries of traditional and contemporary styles while tackling a variety of topics, from current events to diverse cultures and renowned musicians. Look out for “Love Rocks” during the Feb. 5 show, which celebrates the music of Lenny Kravitz.

Dance-illusionists MOMIX return to the Staller Center on April 2 for “Viva MOMIX,” a two-act collection of dance vignettes using light, shadow and props to create stunning effects. The vignettes will take the audience on a magical journey that showcases the greatest moments in the company’s 40-year history.

If you’re looking for something interesting for kids, consider The Queen’s Cartoonists on April 5. These jazz and classical musicians will take you on a crazy romp, playing live music to accompany cartoons projected onscreen above them. The cartoons are from a variety of time periods and countries, allowing audience members of any age to enjoy old classics and new discoveries.

“The Queen’s Cartoonists is a 7 p.m. show, which gives families a chance to enjoy it without staying out too late — it’s always great to introduce kids to live and orchestral music by letting them see it up close,” said Daria Carioscia, Staller’s director of development. “They’ll be performing in our recital hall, which provides a great perspective from wherever you’re sitting, and the cartoons playing behind them will be entertaining and fun for everyone.”

Carioscia also recommends the high-energy, New Orleans jazz sounds of The Hot Sardines on March 19, as well as the May 7 appearance by The Doo Wop Project. If you’ve ever wondered what the music of Jason Mraz and Maroon 5 would sound like if the Jersey Boys sang it, look no further. Both shows are heavy on audience participation, so get ready to sing and dance along. It’s a great time to introduce kids to different genres and eras of music they may have never heard before, she said.

A few more events round out the season: 

■ March 12: 2022 Gala, including performances by Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, and Yo-Yo Ma. Regular tickets are sold out. Become a Gala Supporter to receive VIP tickets.

■ March 30: “Starry Nights,” an evening of music featuring cellist Colin Carr and Stony Brook University musicians

■ April 21: “Queen of the Flute” Carol Wincenc

■ April 22: Comedian, satirist and Grammy nominee David Sedaris

Of course, the Staller Center staff and performers all love to see their shows sold out. But when that’s not possible, they get creative and offer a seat to those who might have never seen a live performance before.

“We’ve been working really hard to fill the theater, and on the nights where we have unsold tickets, we give them away to local school districts, Stony Brook students, and other populations who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to attend,” Carioscia explained. “Ultimately, we want to make the arts accessible to as many people as we can. It’s good for the community, and a full house also changes the energy in an exciting way for our performers.”

The staff knows that there is still some understandable concern in the community about crowds and public events, and they are dedicated to helping audiences feel safe. Masks are required in the center, as well as either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. No time frame is required on testing. Additionally, concessions are not being sold at this time to limit the need to remove your mask.

“We recognize that everyone is in their own place regarding what they feel comfortable doing right now. People will come back when they’re ready, and we’re going to be fair with what we’re asking from our audiences as far as safety,” Inkles said. 

“It’s been smooth, and everyone is just glad to be out and enjoying the theater. We’ve spent the last 2 years stuck inside at home, watching movies on big screen TVs. We want to give people the energy of live performance, the opportunity to have a night out and spend time together and connect again. You can’t duplicate that experience with Netflix or HBO. There’s nothing else like it.”

Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts is located at 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook. Tickets for the Staller Center’s Spring 2022 season are on sale now. A 10 percent discount is offered on all shows through Dec. 12. For more information, visit www.stallercenter.com or call 631-632-ARTS (2787) or email [email protected].

All photos from Staller Center for the Arts.

Photo courtesy of the Engeman Theater

‘CAUSE EVERYTHING IS RENT Broadway stars Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal took time out from signing autographs to pose with staff members from the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, from left, Phyllis Molloy, Alex Spitzli, Michael DeCristofaro, Richard T. Dolce, Jessie Eppelheimer, Jennifer Tully, Kate Keating and Alexandra Heidrich, after the duo’s sold-out show, ‘Anthony and Adam LIVE,’ on Oct. 17.

‘No Day But Today’: Above, the cast of ‘Rent’ sings the finale. Photo courtesy of the SCPA

By Melissa Arnold

With Election Day less than two months away now, the media is saturated with heated debates about crime, poverty, drugs and equality. These were the same issues that inspired Manhattan-based playwright Jonathan Larson to create “Rent,” a rock opera that made its off-Broadway debut in 1996.

Now through Oct. 2, diehard “Rent-heads” and first-timers alike can celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary during its run at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts.

“Rent” is heavily based on Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera “La Boheme,” which follows the struggles of poor artists in Paris. Larson’s story is set in Alphabet City on Manhattan’s Lower East Side at the end of the 1980s, where aspiring director Mark and songwriter Roger are living in squalor. It’s also the height of the AIDS epidemic – drugs are everywhere, being gay is stigmatized, and one way or another, every member of the cast is just trying to survive.

The Cast:

Jordan Hue

Scott Johnston

Jess Ader Ferretti

Angela Garofalo

Michelle Rubino

Robins Prophete

Dondi Rollins Jr.

Jose A. Torres

Meagan Materazo

Megan Cain

Janelle Primm

Samantha Rosario

Jahlil Burke

Brodie Centauro

Kevin Burns

Matthew Paredi

 With all this in mind, it’s not exactly a cheery show. But there is plenty of humor to go around, and its biggest messages — no day but today, forget regret — are inspiring and hopeful.

While this is director Mark Decaterina’s first time leading a production, the cast at SCPA are no strangers to the stage, and many have appeared in “Rent” before with other groups. Their skill makes each of the characters’ struggles and triumphs that much more believable.

As a rock opera, the show’s score is loud and proud — there are very few periods of purely spoken dialogue. Musical director Melissa Coyle (keyboard) leads a small but powerful ensemble with Chad Goodstein on guitar, Jim Waddell on drums and and Rob Curry on bass.

Worth particular mention are Scott Johnston (Roger) and Michelle Rubino (Mimi), who play HIV-positive heroin addicts in various stages of recovery. Their performances were raw and emotional in a way that’s hard to shake. This is especially true in their duets “No Day But Today” and “Without You.”

Jose A. Torres (Angel) does a great job bringing humor into the show as an unapologetically flamboyant drag queen and street drummer. You can’t help but fall in love with him as he dances effortlessly in a serious pair of heels.

While the majority of the individual performances were strong, the cast shines most during ensemble numbers. Their harmonies are perfect and might even make the hair on your neck stand up. The title song “Rent” and famous “Seasons of Love” show off the cast’s enormous talent.

The show was enjoyable overall, but the performance on opening night included multiple issues with sound and video. Some lines were inaudible or too loud, with a few instances of feedback, and the crucial movie projected onstage at the end of the show was barely visible. Hopefully, these were just quirks that will be corrected for upcoming performances.

“Rent” is for mature audiences — the show includes strong language, intense sexual dialogue, and drug use as a major plot point. However, it could also serve as a great springboard to conversation for families with teens.

Run time is approximately 2.5 hours with a 15-minute intermission. All tickets are $35. The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2 E. Main St., Smithtown. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700.

From left, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal will come to Northport on Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will host stars Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp as they perform their new concert Adam & Anthony LIVE Monday, Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the iconic musical “RENT,” the concert will feature material from both artists’ solo shows, popular hits and duets as they performed in the original Broadway production, national tour and film adaptation of “RENT.” Adam and Anthony will also share stories about working with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and composer Jonathan Larson. Tickets are $75 per person and may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.