“Rent,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical that changed the face of Broadway when it premiered more than a quarter century ago, will be part of the 2023 Stratford Festival season, the Star has learned.
The new production of Jonathan Larson’s magnum opus, set to play at the 1,800-seat Festival Theatre, will arguably be one of the biggest since the musical closed on Broadway in 2008 after a 12-year run.
“Spamalot” is set to be the second musical of the 2023 season. The musical adaptation of the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is a holdover from the Festival’s 2020 season, which was canceled due to the pandemic.
“We plan to produce “Rent” and “Spamalot”. However, we are still in negotiations with the rights holders and the creative teams,” confirmed Ann Swerdfager, the festival’s publicity director, in a statement to the Star.
“Rent,” loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera “La Bohème,” follows a group of young bohemians as they navigate New York’s East Village during the AIDS crisis.
The musical’s 1996 off-Broadway premiere was overshadowed by Larson’s sudden death at the age of 35. audiences and paving the way for daring works like “Next to Normal” and “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The Stratford Festival production will be directed by Broadway veteran Thom Allison, a source close to the production told The Star. The 2023 production is something of a homecoming for Allison, who was a member of the original Canadian company of “Rent” which started in Toronto in 1997, before touring Ottawa and Vancouver. He also performed in a regional production of the musical in 2010 in Winnipeg.
“I’m thrilled to hear that Stratford will produce ‘Rent’ in 2023,” said Jeffrey Seller, the Broadway musical’s original producer. (The seller is not involved in this production.)
“When I was a drama teacher at Camp Tamarack in Michigan in the early 80’s, I took my campers to Stratford every summer to see their ingenious productions of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas – ‘The Gondoliers’, ‘The Mikado ‘and’ HMS Pinafore.’ I remember each of them very well.
‘Spamalot’, which tells the story of King Arthur’s journey to find the Holy Grail, premiered on Broadway in 2005 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
Award-winning director, writer, lyricist and actor Lezlie Wade was due to direct the 2020 Stratford Festival production at the Avon Theatre.
“Spamalot” is the second musical of the canceled pandemic season that has since been picked up in a later season. “Chicago,” also announced for 2020, is currently running at the festival. The third musical, “Here’s What It Takes”, with music by former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page, has yet to be produced.
Donna Feore, the festival’s star director and choreographer of musicals, who has overseen a string of hits including ‘Guys and Dolls’, ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ and ‘Chicago’ this season, will not be returning to the Festival next year for pursuing big projects in the United States, as the Star reports. Next year will mark the first season since 2011 – not counting the pandemic – Feore has not led a show at the festival.
The festival is expected to officially announce the full lineup of productions for its 71st season in the coming weeks. The current season runs until October.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION