NYC gritty hits the TADA stage with their production of ‘Rent’ |

If you picked Mount Rushmore of Broadway’s Greatest Shows, “Rent” would be a no-brainer on the list.

Every theater from Altoona, Pennsylvania to Zachary, Louisiana wants to play “Rent,” the 1996 musical written by Jonathan Larson about a group of impoverished artists struggling to survive on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1980s, in the midst of the spread of the AIDS virus.

When Bob Rook announced late last year that he was bringing “Rent” to the TADA Theater stage, he couldn’t have been more excited. It’s the show that 26 years after it premiered on Broadway, continues to be relevant — perhaps more so now with the way the past two years have gone.

“’Rent’ is all about total acceptance — no matter who you are, what you believe in, your ethnicity or your financial situation,” Rook said. “It’s a timeless message that is as important today as the day it was first produced.”

The Historic Haymarket performance venue at 701 P St. will raise the curtain on the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Prize-winning classic on Thursday – the first of 16 performances through June 26.

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The cast includes Drew Sinnard as Mark Cohen, William Hastreiter as Roger Davis, Rachael Washington as Mimi Marquez, Daniel Ikpeama as Tom Collins, Michael Booton as Angel, Dumott Schunard, Jayven Brandt as Benjamin Coffin, Cece Hastreiter as Maureen Johnson and Rachel Ray. like Joanne Jefferson.

Washinton, a 2010 St. Pius X graduate who earned a degree in vocal performance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before moving to New York, says “Rent” tells the story of the good that can come from difficult situations. .

“These are normal people,” she said. “It snaps you out of reality in a way, but also grounds you and makes you realize that it’s not all sunshine and roses, that even in these difficulties there is so much beauty.”

Other musicals have since been released that have followed a similar arc, including “In the Heights,” another production that focuses on adversity in a Latino community in New York City and is set in a story of triumph and unity.

These stories touched Washington because she lived there and saw that sense of community firsthand.

“I spent five years in New York and it was a privilege to be there,” she said. “There’s a lot of aspects of life that I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t moved to New York. Seeing those first-hand experiences, seeing people struggling and struggling — I’ve been through that. .”

Her Lincoln upbringing, she admitted, gave her a safety net, but that didn’t stop her from feeling some of the New York grit that’s a dominant theme in “Rent.”

“Subway rides and needles on trains,” she said. “I’ve seen things. And seeing those things opens up a new direction that I might not have had five years ago if I was playing this role.”

Washington’s dream of going to Broadway was dashed when she said she “realized that the lifestyle of a performer just wasn’t for me,” but there are no regrets about to his experience in New York. It also doesn’t reflect her acting abilities.

“Rachael has grown a lot as an actress,” said Rook, who said many auditioned to play Mimi, an exotic dancer who is also a heroin addict with HIV. “Rachael has the quality and depth to play the many layers that the character needs to have, not to mention sing the music she needs to deliver.

While in New York, Washington took up boxing and two years later was competing for a shot on the US Olympic team. She failed in that quest and will begin working toward her doctorate in sports psychology in the fall at the University of Denver.

“Rent” could be her farewell to the stage, she admitted.

“This could potentially be my swan song,” she said. “I’m a Gemini through and through, so I’ll never say I won’t go back on things. I never completely close a door and I’ll always be open to an opportunity, but I really don’t know right now.

“It kinda looks like that, though.”

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