Johnston’s “Rent” brings a taste of Broadway to WCU

For anyone who has never experienced a live Broadway play, seeing “Rent” at the WCU Fine and Performing Arts Center was probably the next best thing.

As the FPAC ticket box sold out of orchestra seating, the seats filled up at each premiere of “Rent”, beginning on Wednesday Nov. 17, continuing on Saturday Nov. 20, and ending on Sunday Nov. 21.

For anyone new to the story, “Rent” is a powerful musical that originally took stage in 1996 and has become a worldwide favorite. The story is set in East Village of New York City and focuses on a group of young starving artists in the late 1980’s. The artists face disease, drug addiction, sexuality, love, and the unfortunate consequences of A.I.D.S.

Guest Director Owen Johnston is pleased with the turnout of the “Rent” production at WCU.

“I have been involved in many productions of ‘Rent’ over the years and this cast has done exceptional work keeping the message of ‘Rent’ alive,” said Johnston.

The message to the show is no doubt, “No day but today” because the present day is all the artists have to live for.  In many ways this show is like a dynamic soap opera. However, the lighthearted, upbeat music makes the story more than just drama.

“Seasons of Love” is the most popular song of the many songs, which varied from rock and roll (“Rent”) to flirtatious (“Light My Candle”) to depressing (“Will I?”) and then back to rock and roll again.

“We put the show together in about a week,” said WCU Sophomore and Fine Arts major Tyler McKenzie. who played the role of ‘Angel’ in the show. “I think the show went very well. It gave us time to really get deep into these beautiful characters, leaving the cast wanting to perform it 300 more times.”

“It was actually more than what I was expecting,” said WCU Junior Kaitlin Saulter, who attended the premiere on Wednesday night.  “I always knew that the talent we had here at Western was unique and one of a kind, but I was completely blown away. I saw more than what I had always seen.”

“The costume changes were exhilarating,” said McKenzie. “Having five people dress you and put you in makeup is crazy, but it’s fun.”

While many students were impressed, some could not help but compare the show to the film that was released in 2005.

 “One thing to be mindful of is comparing the movie to the Broadway production,” said WCU Junior Dustin Ledbetter. “If people do, then they would be disappointed and say that it was not good. If you don’t compare it though, then it was a well done production and the whole entire cast was awesome.”

“Rent” is made with such an obvious love for the material that it’s hard to criticize. Fans of the show no doubt appreciated the Broadway inspired-effort. The film is great but is surely not quite the same as seeing RENT in its intended form: the stage.

“Rent” has not only brought an authentic Broadway simulation to WCU, but it has also inspired the cast to strive for the real Broadway stage.

“Rent’ is reviving Off-Broadway and is slated for Broadway. Who knows? Maybe you will see some of us in these roles again. Keep your fingers crossed,” said McKenzie.