Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009

Thought Before Another RENT

By Russ Bickerstaff
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I find myself a little less than an hour away from my first show in over a week. This will be my third time seeing RENT—the second time I’ve seen a touring production of the ‘90’s musical. I’ll be seeing it again when Skylight does its production at the end of the season . . . and seeing the official production again after having seen a remarkably passionate production of it with the Greendale Community Theatre is probably going to be a bit of a disappointment—more polished, less powerful. And further away what with the relative size of the venue. If nothing else, this will be an interesting opportunity to refresh me on the show before seeing what should doubtlessly be a really good Skylight production of the show in May.



It was interesting having an opportunity to talk with the show’s Anthony Rapp for last week’s preview column . . . I was on my way to acupuncture from an office on the west side. Stopped off at a coffee shop on Wisconsin Avenue to call Rapp on a New York cell phone that was situated in Appleton where the production had been just prior to coming here. There I was talking to a guy from Chicago currently living in New York who was currently in my home town. And I was downtown talking to the guy in front of a fireplace. I was sharing the same café office space as a woman who was evidently a sports agent doing business at a nearby table. As I wrapped-up the interview, I noticed Rep resident Actor Torey Hanson walking out of the café with a to go cup of coffee. It was kind of a weird day.

Anthony Rapp is a really nice guy if the phone conversation is any indicator. As awkward as a phone interview with a complete stranger can be, he handled it quite well. The man who helped create RENT’s Mark Cohen--one of the most recognizable characters to come out Off-Broadway in the past 20 years, is originally from Chicago. Local theatre guru and RSVP Theatre founder Raymond Bradford told me that he’d worked with Rapp when Rapp was only 9 or 10. Bradford had cast Rapp as a newsboy in a production of Our Town. It wasn’t too much longer afterwards that Rapp appeared in the title role of Oliver in a production at the old Melody Top here in Milwaukee. Things have changed quite a bit since then, but I sensed the same love of theatre in my conversation with him that Bradford remembers years ago in a much younger guy.

The touring production of RENT runs through November 29th at the Marcus Center. A review of that show runs here tomorrow.

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