For a preview, here's an excellent story by my pal Dave Lavender:
Ryan Hardiman looks at his fingernails and laughs.
Folks around the office are getting pretty used to the Milton resident's extreme makeovers by now.
This summer, it's bleach blond hair and black shiny fingernails and not just to look all vampire cool at the pool.
The veteran rocker/actor, who's starred in a slew of edgy musicals such as Rocky Horror, Jekyll and Hyde and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, has transformed for what he feels is the role of a lifetime.
Hardiman, who has seen the hit musical Rent six times, is immersed into the lead role of "Roger" in Charleston Light Opera Guild's production of Rent that runs at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 31, and Aug. 1 at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, and at 8 p.m. Aug. 6 through 8 at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre.
Tickets are reserved at $20 each and may be picked up in person at the Little Theatre box office Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. or by calling 304-343-2287.
Like fellow actors and Rent-heads around the country, Hardiman, and so many of the cast of 24 in this production, have been anxiously awaiting when Rent would become available for regional theaters. The show ended its 12-year Broadway run in 2006 and is one of the longest running Broadway productions.
"We've all talked about it but it always seemed like it was so far off in the future," said Hardiman, who saw Rent on Broadway in 1999 and has since seen five national tours of Rent. "You don't expect our area to have the opportunity to produce a show like this. It's like the idea of doing Phantom of the Opera - it doesn't seem like that will ever be available so it's like a far off dream. It was so unbelievable that not only the rights became available but that they became available for nonprofessional theater to do Rent. Charleston, West Virginia is at the top of the first theater companies in the nation that is able to produce it. There's a huge buzz about it, and it's amazing to be a part of this groundbreaking experience in our area."
For those not familiar with the Pulitzer-Prize and Tony Award-winning rock musical, Rent, a modern rock opera with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson is based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Boheme.
First seen in 1994, Rent uses a stream of melodic, drama-laden rock songs to tell the story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York's Lower East Side in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of AIDS.
Rent, which officially opened on April 29, 1996, on Broadway was an immediate hit, winning a Pulitzer Prize and taking Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical.
Also adapted into a 2005 movie that featured most of the original cast members (including Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp), Rent, with such songs as "Seasons of Love," "Rent," "Light My Candle," and "I'll Cover You," has an almost unprecedented following among modern musicals.
"It's a lot like a rock concert," said Hardiman, who learned how to play guitar for the role. "Especially, the first half of it is like a rock concert and you're just bombarded with song after song and hit after hit, and you know what is coming up if you're a fan of the show. So it is very much like listening to an album of songs by a band and having those hits unfold in front of you. It's extremely exciting and it has that kind of vibe in that it melds theater and rock performance."
Act One takes place on Christmas Eve as a group of eight people reunite with old friends, and create new relationships as their lives intertwine.
Act Two follows their lives over the course of one year to the following Christmas Eve. The characters learn about themselves and about life.
Hardiman said the pace of the show makes it a tough, but very satisfying show to pull off.
"The music is completely brilliant, but it is also very complicated because you have to be 'on' at all times," Hardiman said. "Rent is a very upbeat rock opera, and the dialogue is all singing. Not only do you have to know your part, but you have to know everyone else's part as well as the complete structure and timing of the music. Once the show starts it's like jumping on a speeding train and you have to come in where your parts are, in time to the music, or everything derails. There's no room for hesitation. Fans know this show like the back of their hands, and will know if something is not right. I feel so good about this production and I have every confidence that even diehard Rent fans will be extremely pleased. Everyone in this cast is amazing."
While the show is set in New York City during that first initial wave of AIDS deaths, Rent has always been a show whose themes and message have played powerfully to audiences around the globe regardless of place.
"The theme of the show is really about making the most of the time that you are on the planet," Hardiman said. "I think that's what people take with them. ... It shows people lives in dealing with all the things that we are all dealing with and what we all want - to love and to be loved in return. That is something that everybody can relate to. That and wanting to leave something behind. Especially my character, Roger, he knows he won't be around for long and he really wants to create something worthwhile that he will be remembered by. He wants to write a song that will resonate with people and that will convey what he is all about."
If you go
WHAT: Charleston Light Opera Guild’s second summer theater production of the rock opera, Rent.
WHERE: At the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre, in Charleston.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday as well as Aug. 6-8. Also 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2.
HOW MUCH: Tickets are reserved at $20
GET TICKETS: At the Little Theatre box office Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. or by calling 304-343-2287.
THE CHARLESTON CAST: The show stars Ryan Hardiman as Roger, Chris Conard as Mark, Michael Barnes as Tom Collins, Beth Winkler Bowden as Mimi Marquez, Nakeila Killing as Joanne, Nathan Mohebbi as Angel, Mara Stewart as Maureen, D’laontie Lewis as Benjamin Coffin III. Other cast members include Ann McBurney, Kris Corbett, Madeline Gourevich, Michael Rose, Sarah Plata, Cassie Sorrells, Jessica Sensabaugh, Kristen Pennington, Paul Shannon, Cassia King, Megan Green, Nicholas Foster, Jessica Gardner, Shakira Martin, Kevin Swafford, Joanna Radow and John-Phillip Perry. It is directed and choreographed by Nina Denton Pasinetti, musical director is Bobby Hodges Jr. and accompanist is Mark Scarpelli. The guild’s Summer Theatre is sponsored by Mrs. Alex Schoenbaum.