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"Rent" uses music to share message of community



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Angel Schunard played by David Merino enters the scene singing, "Today 4 U," opening night of Rent's 20th anniversay tour at the IU Auditorium. Rebecca Mehling Buy Photos

The fast-paced opening number of “Rent” set the tone for the musical as the entire cast ran, danced and sang across the stage just moments after the beginning lines.

“Rent” brought its now-classic story to Bloomington on Monday, when the group performed the first show of its 20th anniversary tour for an audience of students and Bloomington residents.

The musical addressed serious themes like poverty in an urban setting, living with HIV and AIDS and the stress surrounding relationships of all different sexualities.

“‘Rent’ for me is something that is very worthwhile to tell and feels really good doing,” said Danny Harris Kornfeld, who plays main character Mark Cohen. “I think anything that promotes inclusiveness and community and love is something that’s worthwhile to tell.”

The young characters all interact with issues that many people face. But in “Rent,” there is the added complexity of AIDS affecting a majority of the main 
characters.

“This is a show that is good for all ages but especially college-age kids,” Kornfeld said. “All of the characters are in their early 20s, Mimi is 19 even, so I think it’s relatable from that standpoint.”

The musical gained popularity after its creation in January 1996, and it received several Tony Awards that same year.

At the time, the AIDS epidemic was seriously affecting the poor population, as well as many members of the LGBT 
community.

The inspiration for the musical came from Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme,” an opera about poor artists attempting to get by with very little in their possessions 
in Paris.

The touring cast embodied the struggle the characters go through, this time in New York City, with both song and dialogue, and with both humor and levity.

“I thought it was cool that they are able to tackle mature themes in a musical, so it’s not as serious,” IU student Dena Dave said.

The messages central to the musical are positive for all audience members, 
Kornfeld said.

“It is all about how, no matter how long you live, as long as you live a full life then your life is worth something, and that’s what you should do,” Kornfeld said.

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