“Rent,” a musical telling the story of young artists and musicians struggling under the black cloud of HIV/AIDS, opens tonight and runs through April 16 at the Footlight Club.
This modern take on Puccini’s “La boheme” is set in Manhattan’s East Village in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Maureen, Mark, Mimi, Roger and their band of bohemian friends struggle with drug addiction, illness, paying the rent, keeping the heat on and their own mortality, telling their stories in song with such memorable numbers as “One Song Glory” and “I Should Tell You.”
“She is passionate about changing the world and expresses herself in a wildly creative way. She is an out, proud lesbian who, although [she] may struggle in her relationships, is a fierce and true friend,” said Anne Olmsted, who plays Maureen. “There aren’t many roles like this in the theater world and I am lucky that I was chosen to play her.”
The AIDS epidemic may be the elephant in the room in “Rent,” but Olmsted thinks the musical also has a broader message for audiences, focusing on the importance of family.
“I would like people to go home from our show and realize that families come in all different shapes and sizes, with moms and dads, friends and lovers, gay, straight and anything in between,” Olmsted said.
Despite the play dealing with such downbeat subject matter, Jose Romero, who plays the AIDS-afflicted drag queen Angel, said he thinks there is a lot of positive energy bouncing off the rooftops in “Rent.”
“I hope the message the audience takes with them is that at the end of the day, no matter if you are homeless, HIV-positive, struggling with drug addiction, gay, lesbian, transgender, black, white, Latino… you are human and you have a heart that has the ability to love,” Romero said.
The show’s creator, Jonathan Larson, died of a heart ailment the night before “Rent” was to open off-Broadway. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play later arrived on Broadway, where it won four Tony awards, including Best Musical.
The ensemble includes Michael Glicksman of Jamaica Plain.
The Footlight Club, America’s oldest community theater, is at 7A Eliot St. in Eliot Hall. For ticket reservations and more information, see www.footlight.org or call 617-524-3200.
The writer is a publicist for the Footlight Club.
In a previous version of this article, Jose Romero was wrongfully identified as Juan Romero.