No day but today - The rock musical RENT is set in New York City’s gritty East Village. It is an imaginative retelling of the classic Puccini opera “La Bohème.” RENT is an unforgettable, timeless story of a group of struggling artists who – despite poverty, illness, drug abuse and unemployment – fall in love, never give up hope and find their voices. This life-affirming musical celebrates solidarity and love in even the most desperate of circumstances. RENT played on Broadway for 12 years, ending in 2008, making it the seventh-longest-running Broadway show in history. The musical received four Tony awards (including best musical, book and score) and the Pulitzer Prize.
ABOUT HAPPYVILLE PRODUCTIONS AND RENT
Happyville Productions produced RENT in the Querfeldhalle in Basel, an old industrial hall that had been converted into a space for public performances. The hall had the right amount of exposed-brick architecture and dangling steel pipes to give it the look and feel of gritty New York. The set designer added to this sensation with additional backdrop construction and a set that placed the audience directly in a New York City frame of mind.
From the main stage in the back, a thrust stage was built to extend six meters into the hall, giving the audience a very intimate experience. In fact, the entire space of the converted industrial hall was used, including the bar at the back of the hall. Audiences were surrounded and immersed in the experience. In addition, a preshow put theater-goers in the mood, with a tent city outside the hall – the tent city that is mentioned in the script of RENT – complete with the homeless people, junkies and New York City cops. The live four-piece band added to the energy, power and harmony of the voices.
The audience loved this total experience. The word-of-mouth advertising was very strong. The first two shows played to a nearly full house. After those two performances, ticket sales exploded. The final eight shows were sold out, even as additional seats were continually added. People had to be turned away at the door for lack of space (fire safety codes were also a priority!).
A total of 10 shows were performed at the Querfeldhalle in Basel, Switzerland in September 2013.
It is Chrstimas Eve. Mark, the narrator of the show, is a struggling filmmaker sharing an apartment with Roger, a formerly successful rock musician who is now HIV positive as a result of his past drug addiction. Roger wants to write a hit song. They receive a phone call from Benny, their ex roommate, who has married the daughter of the owner of the building and the lot next door. Benny wants their overdue rent to be paid. Mark and Roger are expecting a visit from Tom Collins, a gay activist professor of computer science. But Collins is mugged on the street, and then rescued by Angel, a young drag queen and street percussionist who is also HIV positive. Mimi, an exotic dancer who lives downstairs and also has HIV, climbs into the apartment and flirts with Roger.
Benny offers Mark a deal on the rent, and also offers to convert the building into a “Cyberarts Studio,” if Mark can persuade his ex girlfriend Maureen not to make a performance-art protest in the vacant lot next door. Maureen is now the lover of Joanne, civil rights lawyer from a successful family. Joanne cannot get the sound system to work for Maureen’s performance, and is further annoyed when Maureen calls Mark to fix it. Joanne and Mark discuss the problems of being in a relationship with the flirtatious Maureen while dancing “The Tango Maureen.” Mark then goes to the support group where Tom Collins and Angel are trying to deal with their health problems. Meanwhile, back at the apartment, Mimi tries to seduce Roger and to take him for a wild night out. But he rebuffs her, consumed by his fears about his illness.
On the way to Maureen’s performance, Mark is insulted by a homeless woman who he is trying to film. The group decides that they would like to leave dirty New York and open a restaurant in Santa Fe. Maureen’s performance-art protest goes ahead, ending in a riot as the homeless pick up the theme of her fantasy about a cow in Cyberland. After the protest, the group goes to eat at a local restaurant, the Life Café, where they run into and confront Benny and Mr. Grey, his father-in-law. Benny derides their lifestyle, and the artists reply by celebrating la vie bohème and driving them out.
This act opens with the iconic song “Seasons of Love.” Mark has caught the attention of media producer Alexi Darling with his filming of the riot, and the artists decide to break back into the apartment on New Year’s Eve. As they do, Benny arrives and reveals his affair with Mimi. She is rebuffed by Roger, and then she goes to find her drug dealer.
As time passes, Joanne tires of Maureen’s flirting and she of Joanne’s controlling. All are reconciled, but then around Halloween, they fall apart again as Angel succumbs to his illness and dies. Concerned about being the only one left alive, Mark starts to work for Alexi Darling on the T.V. show “Buzzline.” Roger and Mimi argue, and Roger threatens to leave town. Tom Collins admonishes them all for arguing at Angel’s funeral.
Roger and Mark discover their true potential in Roger’s song and Mark’s documentary of Angel’s life. Roger returns to New York just in time for Christmas, and Mark quits Buzzline to work on his own film The cast’s parents are worried that they can’t reach their children, and they leave several messages on their phones. Mimi has disappeared, but is then found in the park. Close to death, she tells Roger that she loves him, and Roger confesses that he has always loved her. Mimi nearly dies, but she recovers after seeing a vision of Angel telling her to go back.