By Rachael Worthington
Rent returns to the stage at the Lincoln Center December 1–3, and is staying true to the original production from the costume designer, to the set, to the sound — the only change is a new cast.
Rent follows the lives of seven artists struggling to pursue their dreams without selling out. One of these fresh-faced actors is Kaleb Wells, who plays leading character Roger, an ex-junkie with HIV in love with Mimi.
For Wells, Rent has always been “that white whale of a show.” He grew up listening to the album, watching the movie and seeing the tour in Boston. It influenced his decision to pursue acting as a career.
“This show at its heart is about family, not the family that you’re born with, but the family that you choose to spend your life with, ” Wells says, who feels constant support from his peers.
With a brand new cast, the audience will find elements of the characters that they haven’t seen before. Roger often seems closed off, but Wells’ goal “is that he’s human, and the things he does, he does because of the situation that he’s in and he ultimately regrets a lot of his decisions.” As actors first and singers second, the cast tries to affect each other and react naturally on stage to provide a genuine experience.
Rent addresses some heavy themes, but Wells emphasized that it carries “a message that really needs to be told and heard in this climate politically and globally.” He’s noticed that while all of their audiences have had vastly different backgrounds, they all have a similar reaction. Rent isn’t just for the younger generation, but for anyone who has dealt with struggle or seeks to understand it.
As one of only five musicals to win both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize, Rent continues to speak loudly and defiantly across generations. Tickets start at $20 and are available here.