Cabrillo Stage starts off its summer musical season with the much anticipated, rock-pop musical, RENT. Seven years in the making, composer-lyricist-book writer Jonathan Larson set out to appeal to existing theatergoers while also attracting the next generation.
He wanted to write the “HAIR of the 90s” and he succeeded. With four Tony awards, six Drama Desk Awards, three Obie Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, and a Pulitzer Prize, RENT spoke to younger audiences in their voice and tackled their issues.
The world of RENT is tough, dirty, angry and gritty as it’s geared toward adult audiences addressing important social issues and problems. The score is a blend of traditional Broadway and rock-pop, creating a ‘Broadway fusion rock’ that has appealed to audiences for decades. Witness the power and passion of RENT, June 28 through July 15.
Well versed in musical theater, it was Larson’s goal to combine traditional Broadway with contemporary pop music, a goal he achieved with RENT. Sadly, after the dress rehearsal prior to the off-Broadway opening, Jonathan Larson died of an aortic aneurysm on January 25, 1996. He was 35 years old.
The cast, the crew, friends and family were devastated. No one was sure how to proceed. It was decided that they would invite family and friends and have the actors sit on the stage and sing the score as a tribute to Jonathan.
The actors began singing but soon could not contain their energy and proceeded to perform the show full out. At the end there was an immediate standing ovation. Then the audience sat down again, unsure of what to do. They sat in silence until a young woman in the audience said, “Thank you Jonathan Larson.”
After two weeks of previews, RENT opened to rave reviews and standing ovations. Four months later, the show moved to Broadway. There the reviews were mixed, but most raved.
The New York Times called it an “exhilarating, landmark rock opera,” and said it “shimmers with hope for the future of the American musical.” Time magazine called it “the most exuberant and original American musical to come along this decade.” The Wall Street Journal declared it, “the best new musical since the 1950s.”
Though RENT is loosely based on Puccini’s opera, La Bohéme, Larson also consulted the novel on which the opera was based, Scenes de la Vie de Bohéme, by Henri Murger.
The characters are similar, but Paris was changed to New York’s East Village. While La Bohéme romanticizes death, which was the trend in 1896 when it premiered, RENT celebrates life in 1996. In the author’s words, “RENT is about a community celebrating life, in the face of death and AIDS, at the turn of the century.”
July 26 through August 19
Next in the Cabrillo Stage line up is Mel Brooks’ hilarious musical comedy, THE PRODUCERS, adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from the Academy Award winning film of the same name. One reviewer described it as ‘a sublimely ridiculous spectacle that should be seen by everybody!’
The story concerns a theatrical producer, Max Bialystock (once known as the King of Broadway) and a mousy accountant, Leo Bloom, who comes to Max’s office to audit his books. Leo shyly reveals his lifelong dream of being a Broadway producer and then tells Max that he has found an accounting error.
Max raised $100,000 for his recent flop, Funny Boy, but the play only cost $98,000 to produce. Max begs Leo to hide the discrepancy and Leo reluctantly agrees. After some calculations, Leo states, “Under the right circumstances, a producer could actually make more money with a flop than he could with a hit.”
Thus begins the scheme to get rich by overselling financial interests in a Broadway flop. To insure that their show fails, they set out to find the worst play ever written, hire the worst director in town, and cast the worst actors in all of New York. It looks like their plan might just work, but the show unexpectedly turns out to be a hit!
The lyrics and the score, arranged by Glen Kelly and Doug Besterman, were also written by Mel Brooks. He delighted audiences with songs such as “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop,” “Heil Myself” and “Prisoners of Love.”
Come enjoy Mr. Brooks’ comedic genius in this rip-roaring, rib-tickling, knee-slapping musical comedy that won a record breaking twelve Tony Awards. THE PRODUCERS opens July 26 and runs through August 19.
Both shows are staged in the Cabrillo Crocker Theater on the Cabrillo College campus. Order tickets on line at cabrillostage.com.
Phone and direct box office sales will be available beginning June 8. Box office hours are 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 831-479-6154. Purchase season tickets to see both shows at a discounted price.