When it hit Broadway in 1996, Rent went a long way to bring musical theater to the real world and the real world to musical theater. Now Tulsa Project Theatre is bringing it to Tulsa.
The company has teamed up with Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's The Joint, 777 W. Cherokee St., in Catoosa, for the second time since its inception, staging the rock opera where rock stars have been performing since October of last year.
"Everything about the Hard Rock is rock 'n' roll, and I think that the entertainment director, Danny Finnerty, appreciates the fact that rock musicals are an integral part of the rock 'n' roll genre," Todd Cunningham, founder of Tulsa Project Theatre, said. "There's a long, long list of the way Broadway and rock 'n' roll have commingled. They (at Hard Rock) recognize that and see a place for us (Tulsa Project Theatre). They've taken a chance on us, and, so far, it's worked out.
"It's pretty incredible when you think there are only two of these venues in the world (in Las Vegas and Tulsa; another is under construction in Tampa, Fla.) and only two musical theater productions have ever been done on the stages of these venues, and we've done both," he said. "They're more concert venues, so using them for musical theatre was kind of a bold move on the part of the Hard Rock, but they've been very supportive and been behind us the whole way."
Tulsa Project Theatre staged its production of The Rocky Horror Show at The Joint shortly after it opened.
"I was touring the venue when it was just concrete and beams," Cunningham said. "We started creating a relationship well over a year ago, when we were talking about how this might work and might fit with their season. With the way the timeline worked out, they did four or five concerts and then us. You had a bunch of really big, internationally known acts and then us on stage. It's been exciting for us for them to have found a way for us to fit into their season."
Rent helps accomplish the Hard Rock's rock 'n' roll mission and it also brings a wildly popular show to Tulsa. Conceived by Jonathan Larson, Rent is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Boheme, telling the story of a group of 20-something artists and musicians struggling to survive and thrive in the midst of poverty and AIDS.
Machele Miller Dill, musical theater program director for the University of Tulsa, who directed TPT's version of Rocky, directs Rent in what may turn into a marriage of sorts between TPT and TU.
The two entities have joined forces for this production, with Tulsa Project Theatre providing venue and ticketing logistics, marketing, and professional actors and TU providing the bulk of the talent, both on stage and backstage.
Cunningham said, if all goes well, the partnership will continue.
"It's good for TU in that gives them a lot of exposure they wouldn't otherwise have gotten, and it gives students the chance to work on stage with professionals. It gives them professional experience outside of their own stage and department," he said. "It sets us apart from every other theater company in town. It makes us different. And it puts us on the road to becoming a professional theater company faster than we would without TU because we can be given University Residential Theatre Agreement status through (Actors) Equity, which would make us a professional theater company."
Cunningham received a letter from Actors Equity acknowledging TPT is in talks with the association to achieve the aforementioned status, and he expects to have that status confirmed soon.
Though most of Rent's actors are TU musical theater students, three are professionals: Wendy Lynette Fox, who played Joanna on the national tour of Rent, will reprise that role. Jeremy Williams plays Tom Collins, and Bobby Johnson, who graced the Rocky stage, plays Angel.
Rent plays The Joint Thursday, April 14; Friday, April 15; and Saturday, April 16 at 8pm. Tickets are $35-$55. Tickets at hardrockcasinotulsa.com/thejoint.
On Saturday, April 16, in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St., Tulsa Symphony Orchestra and Tulsa Oratorio Chorus team up to present Joy and the Brotherhood of Man, a concert featuring the work of Ludwig van Beethoven.
Guest conducted by Gerhardt Zimmerman, the concert features selections from Beethoven's Egmont and Symphony No. 9.
Egmont is a set of incidental music pieces for the 1787 play of the same name by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The composition celebrates the life, heroism and sacrifice of a 16th century Dutch nobleman condemned to death for having taken a valiant stand against oppression.
Symphony No. 9 is the composer's final complete symphony and one of the best-known musical works in history. The symphony unfurls Beethoven's belief in universal freedom, equality and the brotherhood of man. His masterpiece culminates in the powerful final movement in which he sets the words to Friedrich Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" to a tune that remains one of the world's most recognized pieces of music.
The concert features soloists Brenda Harris, soprano; Edyta Kulczak, mezzo-soprano; Frank Poretta, tenor; and Harold Wilson, bass.
The show begins at 7:30pm, and tickets are $10-$65 at the box office and tulsapac.com.
San Francisco Treat
On Sunday, April 17 at 3pm in the Tulsa PAC's John H. Williams Theatre, Choregus Productions presents Quartet San Francisco, three-time Grammy nominees and International Tango competition winners.
Quartet San Francisco are self-dubbed "crossover specialists" who excel in multiple styles, from jazz to tango, pop to funk, blues to bluegrass, gypsy swing to big band and beyond. Since its concert debut in 2001, Quartet San Francisco has offered its literature to audiences in a variety of venues that include tango and concert halls, jazz festivals, museums and classrooms.
The company performed on the PAC's stage in January alongside Tulsa Symphony Orchestra and returns for a solo performance of works like The Beatles' "Oh, Darling," Piazzolla's "Libertango" and the Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Take Five."
The concert was originally scheduled for Feb. 1, but record snowfall in Tulsa necessitated postponement. Tickets are $30 and available at the PAC's website.
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