“Rent” Musical Explores Societal Taboos, Offers Realistic Lessons

By Kiley Krzyzek

Touching on a range of issues as broad as the many talented voices, the Department of Theatre’s production of Rent last week was phenomenal.

Rent follows the story of struggling artists and homeless young adults trying to make a living in New York City, all while facing issues with relationships, disease and addictions.


The rock musical explored, “taboo subjects: gay marriage, HIV/AIDS and people in society who are looked down upon,” said Nick Carrano, freshman, ensemble.


“I think this show is revolutionary, nowadays, especially [because] people our age never had to go through this. It’s super important for us to learn about this and talk about this,” said Molly Goodwin, who played the character Joanne.


The stage was set in a New York City apartment that is at risk of foreclosure because the roommates can’t afford to pay rent. The streets of New York are exemplified by spray paint, which is juxtaposed by cheerful Christmas lights.


A presiding theme of the show was the power of love and acceptance.


“A huge message [of “Rent”] is compassion. You have people from all walks of life, your societal status does not show who you are,” said Goodwin.


A transgender character named Angel provides comic relief during the first portion of the show, as she dances around in a Santa suit. After Angel passes though, she serves as a symbol of hope.


The actors enjoyed exploring the depth of the characters in the show.


“When you’re singing, you’re so vulnerable, that’s one of the most primitive ways of expressing yourself,” said Melanie Gawlak, who played Maureen, Joanne’s girlfriend.


The cast had different reasons for auditioning for the show.


“I just really enjoy reading musicals, I look forward to them. This is my fifth production, it’s different this year, it’s sponsored by Centre Stage. Its purpose is to acknowledge the theatre community on campus and express themselves through song on stage. Auditions are open to everybody,” said Gawlak, president of Center Stage.


Jamie Petronis, who played Roger, also stated that he simply “enjoys musicals”. Roger is a struggling singer-songwriter who dated the exotic dancer Mimi, both of whom are HIV positive.


Freshman Nick Carrano started doing musicals during the senior year of his high school education, and so he decided to attempt auditioning once he got into college. “I was not called back at first, one of my friends in the cast told me they needed more guys so I auditioned again and they put me in ensemble,” he said.


When asked what his or her favorite part of the show was, everyone had a different response.


“Another Day, I get to be a bad ass, and that’s always fun because I don’t get to play that often,” said Jamie Petronis, a Theatre major, who played Roger.


“The opening number, its so exhilarating and high energy,” said Gawlak.


“Learning how to tango and [performing] ‘Take Me or Leave Me,’” said Goodwin.


Joanne and Mark sing about Maureen and share an amusing Tango dance together.


“Santa Fey because I get to be creative and the notes I get to sing are high and they’re fun!” said Cyndi Herrera, who was part of the ensemble and played a homeless person.


Aside from the entertainment value of the performance itself, there are many realistic messages in the show that can be taken to heart and applied to reality.


“Keep your relationships close to you, because you never know when they’ll be gone,” said Jamie Petronis, who played Roger. Roger’s girlfriend in the show, Mimi, nearly dies of what seems to be a drug overdose towards the end of the production.


As the show came to a close, Jamie Petronis, who played Roger, gave a warm thanks to all in attendance. “Thanks everyone for coming and I hope you enjoyed the show.”