Sold on 'Rent'

Tickets gone for musical's opening weekend at Playhouse

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Nadine Carr belts out a tune from the Lake City Playhouse Production of "Rent" while surrounded by her co-stars, from left, Robby French, Keyonna Knight, Todd Kehne, Ben Scheff, Christina Coty, Robert Garcia and Dustin Sorell. The musical opens tonight and runs through Jan. 29.

COEUR d'ALENE - If you were planning to see "Rent" this weekend- but don't already have a ticket - forget it.

All three shows of this weekend's performances at the Lake City Playhouse are sold out.

George Green, Playhouse artistic director, said "according to box office records, nothing has sold out at this level, this quickly."

But don't despair.

There are tickets for the final two weekends, and a show or two may be added.

"I just want to personally thank the community for not just its support of 'Rent' but its past and continued support of this theater," Green said. "The theater has never been healthier in our community."

Director Troy Nickerson says the audience will be sold on this performance of "Rent," as well. He called it an emotional show that's "powerful and heavy hitting."

It's a talented cast of 18 with some of the best voices in the area for the popular musical.

"It's a beautiful show," he said during rehearsal break Monday night. "It's going to be awesome."

The rock opera is based on Puccini's "La Boheme" that tells the story of "A group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggle to survive and create in New York's Lower East Side during the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS."

Characters include an HIV-positive musician and former junkie, a Harvard-educated lawyer and her lesbian lover, an HIV-positive drug addicted S&M dancer, an HIV-positive drag queen street musician/lover and a former member of the group who married for money.

"Rent" has achieved critical and financial success and was made into a movie. It won a Tony Award for Best Musical. It had a 12-year run on Broadway.

But some don't approve of its content that includes homosexuality, and believe it's inappropriate for the community. Some have also called for people to not support the show, and may protest outside the theater on opening night.

Green said the Playhouse is aware there could be protests, and police will be patrolling the site on Garden Street. He also said a donor has secured an armed security company.

Nickerson said people have a right to protest what they don't like. He just asks they be fair and respectful.

"I wish they would come in and see the show and give it a chance," Nickerson said. "I don't think you're going to change minds like that."

Two actors in "Rent" are looking forward to opening night.

Todd Kehne of Spokane plays the role of Mark, the narrator of the story. His character is compassionate and wants others to be happy.

The show is about "being honest" and "being human," he said.

"It's an honor and privilege to be able to do this show," Kehne said. "I'm just glad that we're doing it here."

Robby French of Coeur d'Alene plays Roger, who has HIV, and whose girlfriend kills herself.

He has seen "Rent" about 10 times and auditioned for it nine.

"I finally get to do it in my old hometown," he said, smiling.

His character is on a journey to write one, meaningful last song before he dies, French said. In his role, he wants to let audiences know "what it's like to have that disease and living your last days."

Both men said "Rent" has strong, universal themes that include the importance of living life for each moment. It's about relationships, about bonds, about love.

"Most of the people in the show are living essentially under a death sentence. You have this disease, you will die," Kehne said. "We just don't know when. You don't know how long you have, so make every moment of your life worth it."

French said it's not like the movie version. He said the Playhouse is the first regional theater in the Inland Northwest to produce it, and it would be a mistake not to buy a ticket.

Likewise, Kehne believes those who see it will walk away feeling moved. And for those on the fence, he says come out.

"It's not degenerate. It's a great story, the music is awesome. It's great entertainment and carries a good message with it."

Nickerson said "Rent" is a show "you can't fake." It forces the cast to be honest.

"If you try to push it, it makes it not real and it loses it's whole impact," he said.

As director, he said he was sure to treat the story with respect.

"We want to make sure we do the show justice because it's not done locally, in community or regionally theater very often," Nickerson said. "People have high expectations and we want to be sure to reach them."

If you go

"Rent" runs Jan. 13-29 at the Lake City Playhouse, 1320 E. Garden Ave. Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson; Directed by Troy Nickerson; Music Direction by Zack Baker; Choreographed by Jillian Wylie and Troy Nickerson. Show times are 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $19 for adults, $17 for veterans/students, $15 for seniors, $9 children. For tickets, call 667-1323.

Robby French's character Roger holds Mimi, played by Keyonna Knight, as she lays dying on a table with Tom Collins, played by Ben Scheff, left, and Mark Cohen, played by Todd Kehne watch the event unfold.

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