Youth theater takes on ‘Rent,’ which is known for heavy subject matter

Troy Adams knew there would be resistance to his youth theater group’s planned production of the acclaimed — yet controversial — musical "Rent."

He didn’t expect the resistance to come from him.

Even though Adams and Colabo, his theater company, used the high school edition edited for coarse language, some of the controversial elements of the musical were still intact. Based on the opera "La Boheme," "Rent" deals with AIDS, a transgender character, gays, lesbians, erotic dancers and drug use.

Adams had auditions for actors between the ages of 13 and 19, cast the musical and scheduled the opening performance at the Family Music Center.

A few days before the show, he canceled it.

"I thought I made a mistake with the show, the themes and the talent," he says. "When I got into rehearsals, I realized how heavy the material was. You can clean up the language, but the themes cannot be changed."

Adams is not alone in his reluctance. In recent months, schools in California, West Virginia and other states have canceled their productions of the high school edition of "Rent" in response to objections over the gay themes.

He planned to produce several plays, including "Alice in Wonderland" and "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" at the music center’s 80-seat theater. Hundreds of kids signed up to participate in the summer theater camp run by Adams, and "Rent" was going to be something new and different that appealed to teens and older audiences, he says.

Adams’ main concern was that he didn’t want teens playing parts that they didn’t understand. For instance, one character in the show is transgendered and Adams worried that a teen actor wouldn’t grasp the seriousness of the role.

Turns out, his worries were unfounded. Teenagers not only love "Rent," they understand and often identify with it.

"It’s one of my favorite musicals because it’s so real," says Aly Thomas, 16. She plays Mimi, an exotic dancer in the show. Her mother loves "Rent," she adds. "I was raised in a conservative household and I’m definitely not a homophobe. When I hear AIDS, I don’t automatically think ‘a gay person.’ (Playwright) Jonathan Larson portrayed gay people in a way that lets you know they’re just people."

The Internet also makes kids grow up faster than previous generations who didn’t have access to anything they want to know, Adams says.

Thomas, along with fellow castmate Marife San Juan, 17, object to the sanitizing of the play.

"I was a little upset that they took out the words because that’s what makes it ‘Rent,’ " says San Juan, who portrays a lesbian.

Adams made sure to give parents a disclaimer about the musical, encouraging them to watch the movie "Rent" and talk to their children about it before committing them to performing. He eliminated all mouth-kissing between characters, having them hug or kiss on the cheek, instead. He chose actors older than 18 to play the controversial roles but overall, their version was tamer than the PG-13 movie, he says.

Still, even after giving their approval, a couple of parents pulled their children from the program.

The remaining cast and their parents were so enthusiastic and supportive that Adams decided to reschedule the show. The kids put in so much hard work, they should be rewarded by getting to show it, he says. It is a worthwhile musical that delves into important life lessons, he adds.

"It teaches tolerance, acceptance and living together in a community," Adams says. "In the end, ‘Rent’ is about outsiders. You’ve got people onstage who are pushed to the fringe by society because they’re a minority, a stripper, gay with AIDS."

Being an outsider is something that many people can relate to at some point in their lives, but especially in adolescence.

"I’ve talked to these kids and I ask, ‘Do you ever feel like outsiders yourselves?’ and they say ‘Yes.’ If you go around singing and dancing and wanting to do musical theater, people will look at you like you’re a mutant," Adams says. "But it’s kids like this who turn into the creative people and performers of tomorrow."

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Glittering Lights Dazzles Las Vegas
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like