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Original Broadway and movie stars interject shot
of life into socially conscious musical "Rent"

Ford Center for the Performing Arts
Chicago, IL
Mar. 31, 2009
Rent Rent

Story by Andy Argyrakis
Photos courtesy of Broadway in Chicago

If there's ever a sure fire bet in pretty much every year's Broadway In Chicago series, it's the contemporary musical "Rent." Despite swinging through town on tour more than any other show in the past decade, it continues to sell out night after night, if only because the once underground phenomenon has swelled to major mainstream proportions. But even with its popularity, the rotating cast has never watered down the message, which remains unconditional acceptance, regardless of personal, artistic and sexual differences, alongside sticking up for one's ideals no matter how intense the scrutiny or pressure from outside influences.

While some players over the years have been stronger than others, this particular outing brings fans back to the original Broadway run of "Rent" (and subsequent movie version) as Anthony Rapp ("Dazed and Confused," "Adventures In Babysitting") reprises his role of Mark Cohen and Adam Pascal ("School of Rock," "Cold Case") returns to the part of Roger Davis. Though the names are marquee attractions, it certainly is a bit perplexing at face value for a pair of guys in their late thirties reassuming characters who are supposed to be set in their twenties. But considering neither has aged all that excessively and can still navigate the personas better than anyone, it really felt like the first round of "Rent" all over again.

Of course, a lot has changed in society since its Big Apple debut in 1996, most notably, the improving care for AIDS patients and the dwindling of prejudice over orientation differences. But no matter liberal or conservative, it was impossible to ignore the touching tale of love, loss, friendship, betrayal and temptation. Add in a score of songs that remain amongst the most musically memorable in recent Broadway history ("Light My Candle," "You'll See," "La Vie Boheme B," "Goodbye Love" and the show's signature "Seasons of Love") and there are plenty of reasons to relish in "Rent" once again.

Despite those tunes, plus Rapp and Pascal's participation, there's no overlooking the plethora of dated references to the mid-1990s strictly from a pop culture perspective. Flannel shirts, answering machines, pagers and pay phones are just a few of the unflinchingly annoying distractions that could certainly be replaced with H&M garb, iPhones and texting (without compromising the original script's integrity). Nonetheless, they are forgivable blunders in an otherwise bountiful return engagement that's still just as musically moving as it is socially sensitive.

"Rent" runs through Sunday, April 12 at Chicago's Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre. For additional information, log onto or

Related articles:

"Rent" - Musical review - Chicago, IL - Feb. 2008


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