The Arizona Repertory Theatre’s presentation of "Rent," which had its first show Sunday, hopes to convey to audiences a theme of love and acceptance.
Various shades of pink and purple set the tone on the stage of the UA’s Marroney Theatre. Trash cans and metal handrails add an industrial edge to the show’s set and transports audiences to early 1990s New York.
The aesthetics of the set produce a somber emotion that can be felt throughout the entire theatre. The set alone captures the powerful emotions that "Rent" has conjured in audiences since its inception. In between rehearsing numbers, musical theater senior Sarah Ambrose sat down to share her sentiments about "Rent."
“Everyone can relate to it [in] some sense,” said Ambrose, who plays Maureen, a feisty performance artist who constantly seeks excitement. “My character just wants to be loved, and this idea of loving and being loved becomes a prominent theme in the show."
"Rent" will close the Arizona Repertory Theatre’s 2015-2016 season, and this will be Ambrose’s final performance as a UA student. She finds this musical fitting to her own personal struggles, especially with trying to figure out her life after college.
“It’s this feeling of running out of time and wanting to make your mark on the world,” she said.
Based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera "La bohème," the musical focuses on the lives of seven friends living the artist’s struggle in New York’s Alphabet City. Trying to survive in urban Bohemia, the group of friends faces everyday struggles while plagued by the HIV and AIDS crisis.
“What's so wonderful and magnetic about 'Rent' is that though we see the characters battling with fear and death, the story is one about love, family and life,” musical theatre junior Taylor Pearlstein said.
Pearlstein's character is a 19-year-old heroin addict who suffers from HIV. The creator of the musical, Jonathon Larson, wanted "Rent" to reflect these harsh realities of the bohemian community.
"Rent" officially opened on Broadway in 1996, but before it had the chance to transition to Broadway, Larson died from an aortic aneurysm. The show thrived and went on to become the 10th longest running show in Broadway history.
Though the show incorporates dark and heavy themes, "Rent" is an explosive, upbeat rock opera. Larson intended to attract young audiences to Broadway theatre with this unique musical style. His vision proved to be extremely successful, and "Rent" carries its legacy in student-run performances all over the world.
While excited about the thrilling nature of the show, Pearlstein wants audiences to take away something meaningful from the show.
“It's easy to lose the real meaning of 'Rent' in the fun of doing a rock show, but I hope that the audience walks away from our show with a new understanding of the word 'community,'" she said.
"Rent" runs until May 1 in Marroney Theatre. Tickets cost $20 for the preview and $31 for the rest of the showings. For more information, visit the Arizona Repertory Theatre’s box office or website.
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