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Jonathan Larson’s RENT Closes Out Paramount’s Groundbreaking Third Season, March 12-April 6
Artistic Director Jim Corti and his team of incredible theater artists close out the company’s third Broadway musical series with a daring production of the popular rock musical RENT. Set in the East Village of New York City, RENT is about falling in love, finding your voice and living for today. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, RENT is a pop cultural phenomenon with songs that rock and a story that resonates.
Performances are March 12-April 6, 2014. The Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, IL. Show times are Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tickets are only $36.90 to $49.90. To purchase, go to ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or visit the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 2 hours prior to evening performances. Note: RENT is rated R for strong adult language and themes. Not recommended for audiences under 17.
Based on the experiences of creator Jonathan Larson – and loosely inspired by the opera La Boheme – RENT follows a year in the life of a group of young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York’s Lower East Side. From a poet and a musician to a lawyer and a drag queen, their lives are intertwined as they fight to survive in the Big Apple and, in some cases, fight for their mortality from HIV. In the end, friendship, love and the ability to maintain their individuality keeps these souls together while providing the unforgettable narrative thread for this groundbreaking musical.
“The last show of the season it seems has been taking on a special significance,” notes Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti. “Our first season ended with Hair in the Age of Aquarius. Season two ended with Fiddler on the Roof and Tradition. For season three, our final production is RENT ending with Seasons of Love. These young bohemian artists are struggling to survive the harsh economic realities of New York City’s Alphabet City circa 1991. The spectre of AIDS looms large. But the play is about measuring life in love. To celebrate and ‘remember a year in the life of friends. Measure in Love. Seasons of Love.’”
The music in RENT is a myriad of styles from rock and soul to gospel and heart-aching ballads, and Corti and his production team will fill Paramount’s expansive stage with a gritty, urban set populated by an A-list, all-Chicago cast of actors/singers/dancers performing extraordinary songs celebrating life and mourning mistakes. Principal cast members are: as Mark, Andrew M. Mueller (Peter and the Star Catcher off Broadway, “Huck Finn” in Big River at BoHo Theatre – Jeff Award); as Mimi, Adaeze’ Kelley (alumnus of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy of Los Angeles, “Velma” in Universal Studios Japan productions of Chicago, the title role in AIDA, and “Dorothy” in The Wiz); as Roger, Adam Michaels (Paramount’s Hair and Route 66); as Tom Collins, Evan Tyrone Martin (“Harpo” in Mercury Theatre’s The Color Purple, Jeff Award Nomination for “Flick” in Violet at Bailiwick and Broadway World Nomination-Best Actor Musical for “Valentin” in Kiss of the Spider Woman at BoHo Theatre); as Maureen, Andrea Prestinario (“Eliza Doolittle” in Paramount’s My Fair Lady, “Louise” in Drury Lane Oakbrook’s Gypsy); as Benny, Kelvin Roston Jr. (Court Theatre’s Seven Guitars and Porgy and Bess, Jeff Nominations for title role in Black Ensemble Theatre’s The Jackie Wilson Story); as Joanne, Meghan Murphy (Chicago and New York City’s original cast of 50 Shades! The Musical and Black Ensemble’s From Doo Wop to Hip Hop); and as Angel, Sawyer Smith (Paramount’s A Chorus Line). Ensemble members are Kasey Alfonso, Aaron Conklin, Lillie Cummings, Josh A. Dawson, Erika Diehl, Raven Monique Dockery, Joyee Lin, Gannon O’Brien, Michael Potsic, Neil Stratman and Adrienne Walker.
Music director/conductor Shawn Stengel will lead the Paramount’s live five-person band in the original Broadway orchestrations for RENT. Top set designer Kevin Depinet and lighting designer Jesse Klug are collaborating again at the Paramount, this time on a highly theatrical representation of an abandoned building covered in graffiti circa 1991 NYC Lower East side. Corti’s behind-the-scenes team of professionals also boasts Katie Spelman, choreography; Theresa Ham, costumes; Adam Rosenthal, sound; Sarah E. Ross, props; Dianne Morrisette, wigs; Mike Meyer, filmmaker; and Rose Marie Packer, stage manager.
More about RENT
Possibly no other musical in recent Broadway history received such anticipation for its opening or such immediate stardom after its very first performance than RENT. Rolling Stone, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and even the front cover of Newsweek all heralded RENT as THE modern musical of our time. RENT (book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson; musical arrangements by Steve Skinner; original concept/lyrics by Billy Aronson) was first seen in a three-week workshop production in 1994 at New York Theatre Workshop, also the musical’s initial home following its January 25, 1996 opening. The show’s creator, Jonathan Larson, died suddenly the night before the off-Broadway premiere. RENT went on to win the Pulitzer and the production was a hit. RENT moved to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996, gained critical acclaim and won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008 after a 12-year run of 5,123 performances, the ninth longest-running Broadway show at the time. Its success led to national tours, numerous foreign productions and the 2005 motion picture featuring most of the original Broadway cast members, including Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal.
Jim Corti (director) was hired in 2011 to be the first-ever Artistic Director in the Paramount’s 80+ year history. He was instrumental in launching Paramount’s inaugural Broadway Series, and directed and choreographed Paramount’s first self-produced Broadway show, My Fair Lady, which played to rave reviews. His Paramount production last season of Fiddler on the Roof was a smash hit. Most recently, Corti’s Miss Saigon was the only musical to make the Chicago Tribune’s “Top Ten Shows of 2013.” He is a seasoned veteran to Broadway productions, appearing in the New York casts of Ragtime, A Chorus Line and Candide. Corti has also appeared in the national tours of Urinetown, Cabaret and Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. Highlights from his body of work over three decades include: being the only director in Chicago to have two productions at the same time in the Chicago Tribune’s list of 10 Best Shows in 2009 – Drury Lane’s Cabaret and Writers’ Theatre’s Oh, Coward! He is the sole honoree to have garnered a Jeff Award as an actor (in Marriott’s Grand Hotel), a choreographer (Drury Lane’s Singin’ In The Rain) and director (Northlight’s Blues In The Night and Drury Lane’s Sweet Charity).
Shawn Stengel (music director/conductor) returns to Paramount where he music directed and conducted the inaugural production, My Fair Lady, as well as Joseph. . ., A Chorus Line and Miss Saigon. In addition to conducting the Chicago productions of Billy Elliot and Wicked, both at the Oriental Theatre, Shawn was MD/conductor for the national tours of Crazy for You, And The World Goes ‘Round, and Cats, and played keys for Kander & Ebb’s The Visit, Sondheim’s Bounce (Goodman), Mamma Mia!, Chicago, and Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby. His Chicago music direction credits include Jeff nominations at the Marriott and Pegasus, plus Chicago Shakespeare, Northlight and the Royal George.
Choreographer Katie Spelman choreographed In the Heights and Hair at the Paramount. Other choreography credits include The Dead (Court Theatre); Mikado, Pirates of Penzance, Into the Woods (The Hypocrites); Idomeneus, Theories of the Sun (Sideshow Theatre Company); Fanny Brice (Asolo Repertory); Down and Derby (The New Colony); CPS Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); 48 Hour Musicals (The Music Theatre Company); Cabaret, The Who’s Tommy, Spelling Bee, Ghetto, How Can You Run With A Shell On Your Back, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (Northwestern University); and The Fly Honey Show (The Inconvenience). Spelman has also assisted and/or performed with Goodman Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Marriott Lincolnshire, The House Theatre, City Lit Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Maltz-Jupiter Theatre, Northlight Theatre and American Theatre Company.
About The Paramount Theatre
The Paramount Theatre is the center for performing arts, entertainment and arts education in Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois. Named “One of Chicago’s Top 10 Attended Theatres” by the League of Chicago Theatres, the 1,888-seat Paramount Theatre, located in the heart of downtown Aurora at 23 E. Galena Blvd., is nationally renowned for the quality and caliber of its presentations, superb acoustics and historic beauty.
The Paramount Theatre opened on September 3, 1931. Designed by nationally renowned theater architects C.W. and George L. Rapp, the theater captures a unique Venetian setting portrayed in the art deco influence of the 1930s. The first air-conditioned building outside of Chicago, the Paramount offered the public a variety of entertainment, including “talking pictures,” vaudeville, concerts and circus performances for more than 40 years. In 1976, Aurora Civic Center Authority purchased the Paramount and closed the theater for restoration. The $1.5 million project restored the Paramount to its original grandeur. On April 29, 1978, the Paramount Arts Center opened, offering a variety of theatrical, musical, comedy, dance and family programming. In 2006, a 12,000-square-foot, two-story Grand Gallery lobby was added, with a new, state-of-the-art box office, café and art gallery.
Today, the Paramount produces its own, self-produced Broadway Musical series, presents an eclectic array of comedy, music, dance and family shows, and on most Mondays, screens a classic movie. For tickets and information, go to ParamountAurora.com or call (630) 896-6666.
The Paramount Theatre is one of three live performance venues programmed and managed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority (ACCA). ACCA also oversees the Paramount’s “sister” stage, the intimate, 216-seat Copley Theatre located directly across the street from the Paramount at 8 E. Galena Blvd., as well as RiverEdge Park, downtown Aurora’s new summer outdoor concert venue.
The Paramount Theatre continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Tim Rater, President and CEO, Aurora Civic Center Authority; Jim Corti, Artistic Director, Paramount Theatre; a dedicated Board of Trustees and a devoted staff of live theater and music professionals.
Paramount’s 2013-14 Broadway Series is sponsored by BMO Harris Bank. Paramount’s 2013-14 General Season is sponsored by the Daily Herald. The 2013-14 season is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. For more information, visit ParamountAurora.com.