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OCU stages rock musical ‘Rent’

One of the longest-running and most successful Broadway shows ever, “Rent,” will close out Oklahoma City University’s musical theater season with performances April 19-21. A cast of 27 and an on-stage band will present a fresh look of the award-winning rock opera.

Jonathan Larson’s score incorporates pop, rock, gospel, tango and blues. Loosely based on Puccini’s romantic opera “La Bohème,” “Rent” recounts a year in the lives of seven friends struggling with love, life and loss in New York’s AIDS-ravaged East Village of 1989. Larson — who also wrote the book and lyrics — died in 1996, the day before the show’s off-Broadway premiere. 

“28 years later, ‘Rent’ is still a vital piece of theatre,” said Scott Guthrie, an actor, director, theater educator and OCU musical theatre alumnus who has returned to guest direct the production. “Connection in an isolating age is still such a pressing idea, as we are all insular, glued to our devices, avoiding the one-on-one human interaction in favor of online convenience. Jonathan Larson’s last work reminds us to love hard and hold fast as the future is always uncertain and that there is truly no day but today.”

The musical will be presented at 7:30 p.m. April 19 and 20, with a 2 p.m. April 21 matinee, on OCU’s historic Kirkpatrick stage, 2501 N. Blackwelder. Tickets ($15-$30) are available by calling 405-208-5227 or going to okcu.edu/tickets. Guthrie will present a free director’s talk 30 minutes before curtain of each performance.  

The show, which tackles mature themes, was last performed at OCU’s Bass School of Music in 2015. It is one of only five shows to win both a Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Best Musical. 

“This production is fresh and re-imagined by a talented set of designers and directors, while still tipping the hat to the original,” Guthrie said. “If you’ve never seen ‘Rent,’ this is the ‘Rent’ for you. If you have seen ‘Rent,’ this is also the ‘Rent’ for you.”

In addition to Guthrie, the “Rent” creative team includes music director Matthew Mailman, scenic design by Lauren McPherson, original costumes by Kate Hartigan, lighting by Halycon Piper, sound design by Jacob Henry and choreography by Sheri Hayden. Props supervisor is Syd Martin, with stage management by Kris Gooding.

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