VIVA LA VIE BOHÈME! Berkshire Presents: RENT

Leo Yang

 “No other path, no other way, no day but today!” On October 17, Jesse Howard, director of theater announced the annual winter musical: RENT. While a frigid winter is coming under the Mountain, this Rock and Roll musical is going to bring fire to the Allen Theater.

 “RENT is about ‘a community of people coping with life’,” said Mr. Howard in the audition note. Indeed, based on Puccini’s opera La Bohème, RENT narrates the story of a group of impoverished young people who lived in Lower Manhattan, striving to live a Bohemian life filled with bravery, happiness, and love. Just like the fall play, Nickel and Dimed, the musical aims to “show our audience characters that are often overlooked and marginalized, dignify them and bring them alive on stage,” according to Mr. Howard.

 There’s the AIDS-infected musician who’s attempting to leave one glorious song in his remaining days. There’s the club dancer who is also HIV-positive but seeking for fearless love to her heart. There’s the impecunious filmmaker who gets to survive but suffers from loneliness… RENT embraces and accepts people of various races, gender identities, social backgrounds, etc., and as a Berkshire theater performance always does, it embraces a litany of strong female characters.

 Love and Spirituality are among the many important themes of this show. Markus Lebenthal ’21 who plays Angel, an HIV-positive drag queen and bucket drummer, mentioned that “Angel is the most positive and optimistic one, and his bright and cheerful spirit allows him to befriend with the whole group and brings other up.” As Seasons of Love sings, “how do you measure a year in the life / What about love,” love and solicitude are the way to go during the hard times.

 The production of RENT will evoke the creativity of the team to a great extent. While obtaining inspirations from the original choreography, the directors are going to create a “Berkshire version” of the musical that shows the personalities of the characters in our own way. For instance, more singing and dancing from the ensemble are added to certain scenes to amplify the sound and emotion of the show. Moreover, the sets and scenery are significantly different from the Broadway production, adapting to our own stage in Allen Theater. Apart from acting and singing, all cast members are involved in set builds and technical work. Cast members often assemble and paint the sets by themselves, and they all help out in organizing props and costumes, creating headshots, etc. 

RENT is opening on Thursday, Feb 20 and runs through Saturday, Feb 22. All are welcomed, and be ready to feel a little warmth of love at the tail end of the winter.