• Powerful, rock opera also provides message of choosing community over isolation
By Alida Dunning
Homer High’s Concert Choir presents the rock opera “Rent,” in three shows this weekend, the story of impoverished artists and musicians living in New York’s Lower East Side.
The presentation is based on Puccini’s opera, “La bohème.” Roger, played by Jody Gaines, is reeling from his girlfriend’s suicide, and is HIV positive. He wants to write “one great song” before he dies.
Mimi, played by Wendy Jones, is a dancer struggling with AIDS and drug addiction. Many of the characters are HIV positive and lead unconventional lifestyles.
Choir Director Mark Robinson said although the show deals with difficult, controversial subjects, its messages are very uplifting.
“I think the number one misconception is that it’s a dark and negative show. It’s a really lovely show. It has a really powerful, positive message about choosing love over fear. Choosing community over isolation. Choosing kindness, even when things may be dark and difficult. Choosing to engage in life, and kids can relate to that,” he said.
The script is a school production version. Robinson said he and Stage Director Lance Petersen have further adapted the show to fit the Homer choir.
“We do like a show that’s brisk, and sticks to the point, and gets the point across in a scene and moves on and doesn’t dilly-dally. Part of that’s necessary because we have a cast of a hundred people. No broadway show’s designed for that,” Robinson said. “We have to make some accommodations in a lot of respects, to make it work for our kids. I like to pick shows where there are lots of big cast scenes, lots of places where I can put everybody on the stage and get them moving and dancing and singing and be engaged.”
Certain “racy” scenes were cut to keep the show appropriate for high school. “That doesn’t mean that some of the subject matter is without controversy, but I really believe if people come with any kind of open heart, or open mind, they’ll see it for what it is, which is a very uplifting an positive show. The racy elements, they’re gone. AIDS is aids. Drug addiction is drug addiction. Those things may cause some people to be concerned, but I think they’re handled in a positive sort of way,” he said.
“Rent” has a meaty and meaningful story line unlike entertaining shows without that much of a point to them which tends to engage kids more. But their choir director sees that students want to think and talk about important things.
“I think people are going to be blown away. You put 100 good singers on the stage, and they’re all good singers, and it’s pretty awesome. I hope people go away from this inspired and impressed by Homer’s kids, and that there are conversations at the dinner table afterwards. I had a parent talk to me about that specifically; ‘It gives me a chance to talk to my son about some of the things that I believe,’” said Robinson.
Show times are Friday 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 3 and 7:30 p.m., at Homer Mariner Theater. Tickets are $12 at the Homer Bookstore, 235-7496, and Etude Studio, 235-7579, and at the door.
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