‘RENT’ is the little musical that could.
Written by Jonathan Larson, the show was presented initially Off-Broadway, with it premiering the night after Larson’s death.
What should have killed off the show only became part of its legend, gaining praise from audiences and critics, winning a slew of awards, including the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, and being adapted for the silver screen.
‘RENT’ has endured for over 20 years, with it consistently playing on stages across the world.
The tale of a group of impoverished young artists trying to get by in New York City has struck a chord with many fans thanks to its realistic and positive portrayal of HIV positive individuals, showing people struggling in life refusing to give up, and its killer list of musical numbers, including ‘Seasons Of Love’.
For its 20th anniversary, local entertainer Matt Ward is producing a run of the iconic show for Brisbane’s celebration of queer arts and culture, MELT Festival.
We spoke to Matt about his love for the musical.
So, who is Matt Ward?
I'm actually a wearer of many different hats that all relate to my love of performing and musical theatre. I'm a fully qualified vocal coach, the creator & host of the live cabaret show 'The Greenroom Project' and 'Greenroom Junior', a NIDA graduate and now the producer of 'RENT'…
Why are you producing 'RENT'?
Why not? This year marks the 20th anniversary for 'RENT' so when I was looking for a musical to produce this was an obvious choice. It's an iconic musical that is as relatable to an audience today as it was in 1996. Also a perfect fit for MELT Festival 2017!
What are you bringing to this production?
I'm bringing over 15 years experience as a musical theatre performer, and secondly which I believe a producer needs in order to present a successful show is my love for live theatre. If the passion is there, everyone involved resonates from it to present outstanding performances.
‘RENT’ is an incredibly dark show; will audiences be put off by it?
I don’t believe 'RENT' to be a "dark show” by any means. Yes, it does deal with some heavy and controversial topics, but on the whole It’s a story of survival, acceptance and most importantly love.
It’s the show’s 20th anniversary; why do you think it has endured?
It's endured because audiences can relate. Not everything always turns out the way you envisioned, we all at some stage deal with loss, love, illness and friendship, which is what 'RENT' is about. Whether it's set in New York City or downtown Brisbane, the story is the same.
Which character means the most to you?
All the characters play a pivotal role in telling the story, however the character of Mark Cohen (played by Jackson McGovern) means a lot to me. He's basically a love struck nerd who is blinded by love, and being the shows narrator I think audiences will feel for him emotionally and understand why he reacts the way he does.
What would you do to get out of paying rent?
Marry rich! HAHAHAHA!
How will you be spending your next 525,600 minutes?
Preparing for opening night and then celebrating the success before looking for my next project.