“Rent” is due

Published 11:23 am Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jordan Wylde sings during rehearsal of the RCC presentation of “Rent.” - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Vaunted musical comes to RCC stage

Lindsey Williams is wrapping up her first year as Riverland Community College theater director with a modern classic.

The department begins a seven-night run of the musical “Rent” on April 21.

Katie Hunerdosse and Matt Stoneking rehearse a scene of the upcoming RCC presentation of “Rent” - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“I think this one’s going to be really special,” Williams said.

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“Rent,” written by Jonathan Larson, is widely considered a modern classic, and Williams isn’t holding back her excitement for what she calls one of her favorites.

“I love this show,” Williams said. “I’ve been a big fan of ‘Rent’ ever since it opened on Broadway in 1996.”

Williams went to a performance of “Rent” during its original Broadway run, and saw it when the show toured, and she said she’s wanted to direct the show for a long time.

“I’ve always loved the music and loved the story,” she said. “It’ll make you laugh; it’ll make you cry, and it is such an uplifting show that it’s always been one of my favorites.”

 An Austin first

Despite her love for the show, Williams said she’s never been part of a performance of “Rent.” That’s largely because the production rights only recently became available to colleges and community theaters.

Williams said Riverland’s production is one of the first times — if not the first — “Rent” has been performed in Austin.

“I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of productions coming over the next couple of years because so many people have been so excited to produce this show,” she said.

Along with her excitement for the show, Williams spoke highly of her cast of current students, Riverland grads, a few Austin High School students and community members.

“We have an all star cast,” Williams said. “I’m so thrilled with the people we were able to get to do the show.”

WIlliams described the cast as incredibly talented, and she urged people to come out and see the group perform.

Joshua Whalen and Martha McDermott in the upcoming “Rent.” - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The auditions, Williams said, were very competitive, and she said it was difficult to choose from all the talented people who auditioned.

“What we ended up with is, I think, some of the best singing talent in Austin,” she said. “We have some incredible singers in this show.”

“Rent,” Williams said, “changed Broadway by bringing pop and rock music back to the forefront.

“‘Rent’ was hugely influential,” she said.

That style may seem easy, but it hasn’t been a cake walk for the performers. Williams described the rock and pop score as deceptively difficult. Though the music sounds simple, Williams said it’s difficult for the actors to sing that style without damaging their voices

“It’s stretched them and pushed them to go beyond their comfort zone,” Williams said.

The style is very different than what the performers are used to in school choirs, but Williams said it’s been fun to watch the performers grow.

“It’s been a learning process for both me and the cast,” she said.

She said, the cast has adapted nicely to the style.

“I’m so excited to hear them sing now,” she said. “They’re sounding really good.”

Now that “Rent” is more than a decade old, Williams admitted the show is a bit dated. The cell phones being used are like bricks, and no one was on Facebook or Twitter. The treatments discussed in the play for AIDS are also very different to today’s medicine.

However, Williams said the basic themes of the play are universal: love, treating others with kindness and living every moment as if it were your last.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of clothes they’re wearing or what kind of clothes they have; it’s something that I think will resonate throughout the ages,” she said. “This is a show that even 50 years, I think will still be produced and still be important.”

 Ready for opening night

Williams warned there are some swear words and adult themes in the show, including some references to drug use and sex. Williams said the show may not be appropriate for young children, but she said it’s nothing most haven’t already seen on cable television.

Still, Williams urged people to come out and see the performance.

Though the show is very different from the other three plays she’s led in her first year, Williams said “Rent” is the perfect way to cap her first year in Austin.

“I know it very well, and I love it,” she said. “It’s so much fun to work on, and we have been really having a lot of fun rehearsing it.”

Williams also described here first year as a great experience, and she’s appreciated the help she’s gotten from people at Riverland and the community for their help.

“It’s been a lot of work,” she said. “I’m exhausted, but I’m having a great time.”

“Rent” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on April 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 and at 2 p.m. on April 22 and 29.

Tickets are $15 and are on sale at the Riverland box office, located in room E107 in the East Building of the Austin campus. Box office hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour before performances.

Riverland students receive two free tickets to each performance with a valid student ID. The box office can be contacted at 507-433-0595 or by emailing boxoffice@riverland.edu.