The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

October 22, 2013

Rock musical to open eyes

'Rent' tackles serious life issues

If you’re expecting a Pollyanna, feel-good type of musical this weekend, think again.

Danville Light Opera will take a different approach with “Rent,” a rock musical that challenges the audience to face the issues in their community and to examine how they’re making the world a better place.

“This production, in part, is an incredible opportunity to present and break the silence on a lot of issues in Danville that are never talked about, and that feed on the silence,” director Jesse Pierce said. “We’re bringing those issues to the stage.”

The musical, with 24 cast members, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Dick Van Dyke Auditorium at Danville High School.

“Rent,” based on Puccini’s opera “La Boheme,” tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York City’s Lower East Side. They deal with issues such as HIV/AIDS, homelessness and addiction. It’s recommended for mature audiences.

The play, with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, won many awards and was made into a movie in 2005.

Pierce can relate to the characters in a way. At one time, he tried to make a living as an artist, but needed to take a job for the benefits. He grew up in DLO, but most of his directing has been on the cabaret circuit in Chicago and doing choreography for musicals. This is the first DLO show he’s done in a while.

“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “We have an incredible cast and creative team.”

During an “Inside Rent” event with the public last week, he said, one word kept emerging — community.

“We have become a community within the cast. We take care of each other,” he said. The cast members have shared their own experiences with the serious issues presented in the play, and have a safety net to talk about them.

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