There’s “no day but today” in the newest production from Kankakee’s Limelight Theatre Works — “Rent.”
“Rent” is a rock musical with music and lyrics by Johnathan Larson, and it tells the tale of a group of impoverished young artists who are trying to create a life for themselves in New York City’s East Village, under the veil of HIV/AIDS.
Starting out on Broadway in 1996, “Rent” gained much success and became the 11th longest-running Broadway show. “Rent” was adapted into a movie in 2005, using some of show’s original cast in the roles. Fox plans to add “Rent” to its list of live TV productions in January of 2019.
“Rent” is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Boheme,” a tale of young bohemians living in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1840s.
The local production of “Rent” will be directed by 26-year-old Andie Langford, of Westmont. This is her first time directing a show, and she’s also doing the choreography.
“I met Tyler [McMahon, portraying the role of Tom Collins] during a show in Orland Park, where he was Shrek and I was the choreographer,” Langford said. “Since then, I’ve been his go-to choreographer.”
Andie’s first love is dance. “I wanted to be able to do both,” Langford said. “I figured that I wasn’t gonna find anyone that I would trust as much as myself. I didn’t get into theater until 2012.”
Last Wednesday at The Majestic Theatre, the cast of “Rent” continued with their rehearsals, practicing numbers such as “Over the Moon,” with Abby Denault, of Manteno, tackling the role of Maureen Johnson — a bisexual performance artist, Joanne’s girlfriend and Mark’s ex-girlfriend.
“This week, we’re trying to get through the ins and outs of getting on and off stage, lighting cues, and our band is back this week, so we’re back to singing with piano and guitar,” Langford said. “My last show was ‘Hairspray,’ and a lot of my cast members were in that with us.
“I’ve been telling people to not bring their kids to this one, because this is nothing like I’ve ever been in or done before,” Langford said. “I’m 26, and I even find myself blushing and getting giggly at some of the sexual references. We had an age limit of 17 and older, so everyone in the show is basically an adult and acts as such.”
Although this show is fun and funny with upbeat numbers, “Rent” also tackles a serious issue — HIV and AIDS — and features other adult themes and language.
“I hope that the audience feels the story and the emotion that we’re trying to portray, and that they look at the lens that is this show, because it is very mature,” said 21-year-old Kevin Soto, of Coal City, who’s portraying Roger Davis, an HIV-positive rock musician and Mimi’s love interest.
“It’s important to know that there were people who lost their loved ones, and that there were people who held the ones they lost in their arms because of the AIDS epidemic,” Soto said.
Soto is no stranger to “Rent.” He previously took the role of Mark Cohen, an aspiring filmmaker, four years ago in Coal City’s Small Town Theatrics production of the show.
This time around portraying Roger, Soto will be pulling emotion from his own life to play the character.
“For me, personally, it takes a lot of emotion to play Roger, so I’ve taken a lot of my personal life, whether that be good or bad,” Soto said. “Throughout the show, he goes through a lot of heartbreak and upsets.”
Around this time last year, Soto lost his aunt.
“I knew her for a very long time,” he said. “I think that’s the most recent thing I’ve been trying to pull emotion from.”
“This cast is unbelievably talented,” Langford said. “Their voices, their ideas and everything that they bring to the table is way beyond anything I would’ve ever expected. By our first performance, I’m hoping that I have everything that I need to do on my side done, so everything fits together seamlessly for them.”
Make sure to check out the Limelight Theatre Works’ production of “Rent” at The Majestic Theatre at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available through the brown paper tickets link on the event’s Facebook page, by searching “Rent — Limelight Theatre Works.”
Limelight Theatre Works in a three-year-old theater company in Kankakee that’s dedicated to producing small theatrical pieces and education of theater.