RENT: a must-see for the LGBT+ community

The Company of the “RENT” 20th Anniversary Tour. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Jonathan Larson’s RENT continues to speak loudly and defiantly to audiences across generations and all over the world. For Gen X’ers and Millennials, it may be an introduction to a time when the LGBT+ community never knew what the future held, but never gave up. The community cared for each other like family.

RENT takes place at the height of the AIDS crisis, a time when a diagnosis was viewed as a sentence of death. Roger, Mimi, Collins and Angel all are living with HIV and in some cases full-blown AIDS; Maureen, Joanne, Benny and Mark are not HIV+.

The original rock musical RENT follows an unforgettable year in the lives of these eight artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. With its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear, this timeless celebration of friendship and creativity reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters - love.

Creating a message of joy and hope in the face of the epidemic could have been problematic, but Larson pulled off the job to huge critical acclaim. The musical is particularly poignant for the LGBT+ community. The setting brings back old memories and feelings in the generation that survived the epidemic.

Four of the characters are LGBT+: Maureen is bisexual, Joanne is a lesbian, Collins is gay and Angel is a gay drag queen.

Collins is Angel’s lover and cares for him through his illness. There is controversy over whether Angel is transgender or gay. The original actors refer to the character simply as a drag queen. Angel dies early and becomes a guiding spirit for the loved ones he leaves behind.

“Angel was effective as a symbol for the audience as well as the other characters, because Angel emanated only love and positivity…. This is why Angel was the heart of RENT. [She] served as the embodiment of the message ‘measure your life in love’," said Playbill.

Maureen and Joanne “are probably the most well-known queer female characters in Broadway history,” said Afterellen.com. Maureen is “a bisexual woman who has had long term relationships with both Mark and Joanne. Joanne, a lesbian lawyer, is perpetually smitten with her diva, all the while trying to fit into Maureen’s bohemian world.

“Their passionate duet, Take Me or Leave Me, is one of the show’s most popular songs,” says the website. “Never before had we heard two women express their affection for one another in a duet, and these roles will forever have a place of honor in queer Broadway.”

RENT is a must-see musical for the LGBT+ community.

OKC Broadway welcomes RENT to the Civic Center Music Hall, Nov. 7-12. Tickets are available at www.OKCBroadway.com, by calling (405) 297-2264 Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., or visiting the Civic Center Box Office.

RENT has performances other cities in The Gayly region: Springfield, Mo. Oct. 27-28; Pittsburg, Kan. Oct. 29; Wichita Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

Copyright The Gayly – October 23, 2017 @ 7:10 a.m. CDT.