Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our website.

Reviving ‘Rent’: 9 Works Theatrical Returns with a Fresh Take on the Iconic Musical

Reviving ‘Rent’: 9 Works Theatrical Returns with a Fresh Take on the Iconic Musical

Share this article

When 9 Works Theatrical first staged Rent in 2010, it was only the company’s second stage production after its 2009 debut of Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World. 9 Works’ Managing Director and Executive Producer, Santi Santamaria, said that Toff de Venecia, one of the company’s board directors who was only in his early 20s back then, pushed the company to mount the show.

True enough, de Venecia’s instincts were right. Due to popular demand at the time, it had a rerun in that same year as well as the following year. Thirteen years later, director and the company’s Artistic Director, Robbie Guevara, is tackling the show again.

Guevara admits that he initially had no desire to re-stage the show again but got excited when Associate Artistic Director and the show’s set designer, Mio Infante, started sharing new ideas about it.

“The first order of business was, obviously we can’t present it the same way we did back in 2010 and 2011,” shares Guevara. “How to redo the material catering to the audiences of today, which are mostly zillennials, without altering the script. Their way of thinking is very different from the millennials and the younger Gen X-ers that we catered to back then.”

He admits that about a month before they started music rehearsals, he was already getting bothered by some of the things in the material. “Essentially, we realized so many things we didn’t realize back then, so addressing those issues itself forced us to really rethink the approach per character. When we were able to more or less find ways of making these misfits lovable, the staging became clear.”

He says that from analyzing the characterizations, his next concern was how to make audiences relate to those characters. “That’s when we brought in the cast and the first day of reading was a discussion of the characters from their points of view. That way it really became collaborative, and of course that also altered the way we saw things in terms of the staging.”

He adds that the set will be more complicated this time around to serve as a reflection of how complicated life has become since the 90s when the show made its debut on Broadway. “…there was no mobile phone, there was no social media and all that. So there will be more elements that we will be bringing in.”

Humanization and Underlining AIDS

Guevara shares that one big change in the show’s upcoming iteration is that the humanization of the characters will be far more apparent. “When we did it back in 2010, we also wanted to service how it was done in [1996] when it first came out. We didn’t really find details so much. [This time], we found so much, and I’m still discovering new things as we go along.”

Still set in 1989-1990, Guevara says that the production will be underlining the AIDS epidemic more this time around. “[It’s] to help educate and to really show its effects on the society at that time more graphically because when it came out, everybody was affected, not as much as the pandemic recently affected us, but lives were totally changed. Relationships changed, and we want to show that in this production.”

Jasmine Fitzgerald, who plays Maureen Johnson, says, “One thing that has not changed, which is something that we really need to push, especially here in the Philippines, is how we’re going about HIV and how people are still being outcast. I was just being born at that time but now being 33, I’ve witnessed here what I’ve seen happening in the musical.”

“To use this platform, to make people aware that that’s something that’s really important and that’s something we should change, because after how many years, people are still shy. People are still feeling anxiety. We want to make a community.”

Markki Stroem, who plays Benny Coffin and Tom Collins in certain performances, is himself a brand ambassador of Love Yourself PH, a community of volunteers that provides free HIV testing, counseling, treatment, and life coaching in the Philippines. “It’s still a big crisis at the moment. There are still people who don’t want to tell their parents because they’re so scared to come out and really state what is happening in their lives for shame because we know how religious our country is.”

“Now Love Yourself has opened doors for free testing and now you can live a full life just by taking a few pills that they will provide for you.”

Thea Astley, who makes her stage debut as Mimi Marquez, says that she intends to bring a very truthful side of her character to light. “She’s an exotic dancer, and that line of work was viewed differently from when it was [first] staged to now. Now, we’re trying to raise a generation that is sex positive and we now have women, men, and everything in between and beyond who choose this line of work. I personally am also trying to bring that into the character, na it’s a living, it’s a means to an end, but also keeping in mind that this type of work is also the product of systemic oppression that has existed for as long as we’ve been living.”

Revisiting the Show in a Post-Pandemic World

Infante shares that so much is resonating now that they’re revisiting the material in a post-pandemic time. “There are things that we learned from the pandemic fortunately and unfortunately. But coming from that, so much is resonating from this piece right now. Same as probably what Jonathan Larson was thinking when he was figuring out La Boheme. So it’s that. It’s different time frames but it’s the same thing.”

Rent features Anthony Rosaldo as Roger, Molly Langley and Thea Astley alternating as Mimi, Ian Pangilinan and Reb Atadero alternating as Mark, Justine Peña and Jasmine Fitzgerald alternating as Maureen, Garrett Bolden as Tom Collins, Adrian Lindayag and Lance Reblando alternating as Angel, Mica Fajardo and Fay Castro alternating as Joanne, Markki Stroem as Benny,  and Guji Lorenzana as Benny/ Mr. Johnson. Stroem will also play the role of Tom Collins in certain performances.

Completing the cast are Abi Sulit as Pam, Jordan Andrews as Gordono, Misha Fabian as Ally, Chesko Rodriguez and Antonio Valdez alternating as Steve, Kai Banson as Alexi Darling, and Vyen Villanueva as Paul.

Written by Jonathan Larson (book, music, and lyrics), Rent is a Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical, loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème. Set in the East Village of New York City during the late 1980s and early 1990s, it follows a diverse group of struggling artists, musicians, and bohemians as they navigate life, love, and creativity amidst the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Rent opens on April 20 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Plaza. You can watch the cast sing the song Will I from their music rehearsals in the video below.

About the Author /


Founder and Managing Director of TheaterFansManila.com. Thinks about the performing arts scene 2/3 of the day, everyday. A firm believer in the Filipino artist.