Jonathan Larson's Rent has captivated audiences for more than 20 years. The story, loosely based on Puccini's La Boheme, shows the struggles of starving artists living in New York City. Tuberculosis is replaced by HIV/AIDS and Paris is switched for the East Village in this Pulitzer Prize-winning production. The show went on to garner four Tony wins, become a motion picture and inspire the music of Hamilton, among other things.
Many cast members of the Rent 20th-anniversary tour were in Chicago on May 8 and stopped by Musical Monday at the Boystown nightspot Sidetrack. The cast performed cabaret-style renditions of songs to raise money for The Legacy Project Chicago. Among the songs were Sting's "All This Time," jazz standard "All of Me" and "It All Fades Away," from the musical version of Bridges of Madison County.
The host of the variety show, Sammy Ferber, kept things moving along for more than an hour, with rotating performers and jokes.
A trio sang a Spelling Bee song, then the two leads from RentDanny Harris Kornfeld and Katie Lamardrew song choices out of a cup. Some random tracks they chose were from hit musicals like Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors and Phantom of the Opera. They had a special request to sing "For Good" from Wicked to hearty applause.
Natalie Lipin brought the house down with her hilarious version of Spamalot's "Diva's Lament ( Whatever Happened to My Part? )."
Fittingly titled A Season of Love Benefit Concert, singer Jasmine Easler both opened the night, and closed it down by singing "Maybe This Time," from Cabaret.
The night spoke volumes about a cast that used its day off from the tour to support the community instead of staying on vocal rest.
The $20 suggested donations from attendees were put to good use, as the Legacy Project is "dedicated to combating anti-gay bullying by celebrating LGBT contributions in history." There are currently 37 bronze memorials on Halsted Street, an outdoor museum right outside the entrance of Sidetrack.
Find out more at LegacyProjectChicago.org, SidetrackChicago.com andBroadwayInChicago.com .
Photos and text by Jerry Nunn