By Leigh Blenkhorn, www.simcoe.com The Barrie Advance
BARRIE - When it came to selecting the first official Loft Art Space show, there was no contest.
The theatre will launch its inaugural summer season with a production of Jonathan Larson’s RENT.
“We’ve got a crew of struggling artists who love the arts telling a story about struggling artists and people who love the arts,” said the show’s director Ryan LaPlante. “It was perfect.”
RENT follows a group of young artists who are living in early-1990s New York. It explores the struggles of low-income artists, the unemployed, those infected with HIV, and those battling homophobia.
“When we were talking about shows, it seemed like all of the issues that were a part of that show are just as current today as they were then,” LaPlante said. “We are still dealing with economic crisis, and threats to the arts, but it’s really about relationships, about struggling against a world that is confusing and not always terribly welcoming. It’s about trying to find meaning for yourself and the people around you and that really spoke to us. Along with the fact that the music rocks.”
At the heart of the story are three close friends – the jovial Tom Collins (Wayne Desormeaux), the filmmaker Mark Cohen (Michael Holland) and the recovering addict/former rock sensation Roger Davis (Steve Major).
Roger finds himself falling in love with the troubled addict/dancer Mimi Marquez (Jaclyn Serre), while Mark struggles to get over the fact that his previous girlfriend – the diva Maureen Johnson (Pam Reesor) – left him for civil lawyer Joanne Jefferson (Jessika Dean).
Collins is the only one to find true love, as he meets the fabulous Angel Dumott Schunard (Jamie Meltz) after being mugged.
The economically stable, yet slightly arrogant, Benjamin Coffin III (Andrew Perry) seems to be the thorn in their collective side as he pushes for a more realistic lifestyle and plans for the future.
The chorus of the play, a number of highly demanding roles that require each actor to perform multiple characters throughout the piece, fills out the rest of the unforgiving yet sometimes charming world in which these characters struggle to live (Alysa King, Robbie Woods, Leanne Miller, Nicole Bach Dyer, Meghan Fox and Carla Tucker).
LaPlante, a recent graduate of Queen’s University, is one of the original co-artistic directors of Vagabond Theatre, Canada’s first Shakespearean Repertoire Company.
“The way that RENT has been done traditionally is about recreating what that original broadway cast did with that first production. My background is in Shakespeare, which is all about bringing yourself to the role and telling the story with the actors you have,” he said. “We have such talented people that it’s not about comparing them to the original, it’s about what can they bring to the role.”
The production’s musical director is Edwina Douglas, choreographer is Carla Tucker and costumes are by Jill LaPlante.
RENT runs Aug. 11, 13, 14, 18, 19 and 21 at The Loft,
Tickets are $20 each and can be reserved online by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 705-792-2877.