By Vanessa Wolf
Maui OnStage’s production of RENT, the hit Broadway musical, opens Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku.
RENT is a rock musical which tells the story of a group of young “starving” artists and musicians on New York’s Lower East Side who are struggling to survive and create while living under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
The musical originally ran in a limited, Off-Broadway workshop production. However, it soon won a Pulitzer Prize and was moved to Broadway, where it ultimately became the ninth longest-running Broadway show of all time.
If you missed it before the curtains closed in September 2008, you can catch the Maui production over the next few weeks.
We talked to director Steven Dascoulias about RENT and what makes the Maui OnStage version special.
Maui Now: How did you come to be directing a play on Maui?
Steven Dascoulias: I have been working in theater, like many people, since my high school days. I have worked as an actor, director and musical director and now serve as production manager at Maui OnStage. My wife Alexis and I had the opportunity to move to Maui in 2007. Alexis was hired as the Executive Director for Maui OnStage and I joined the company about a year later.
MN: The play you’ve chosen is the Broadway hit, RENT. What made you choose it?
SD: We chose RENT because of its relevance and appeal. It touches on issues and subjects that many people relate to. RENT had a 12-year run on Broadway and grossed more than $280 million. It has had successful productions all over the world. We’re very excited to be able to have Maui talent bring this musical to life at the Historic Iao Theater.
MN: What is the number one reason people should come out to Wailuku and see RENT?
SD: The number one reason to see it is the incredibly talented cast that breathes life into the piece. Jonathan Larson’s score comes alive each and every time I hear them sing it.
MN: Do you have any sense of how Emma, the alleged ghost of the Iao Theater, feels about your production of RENT?
SD: I have never had an encounter with Emma, but I think that she’ll enjoy the show and welcome the patrons and players to her theater home.
MN: What’s your favorite song in the production and why?
SD: The score has many songs that I like; “Seasons of Love” is certainly one of the best known from the show. As far as a favorite of mine I think I’d have to say “No Day But Today.” We often put things off in life. “No Day But Today” reminds us to live life to the fullest. Take a chance. Don’t let life pass you by. Participate.
MN: What play or musical would you most love to direct or produce on Maui, but don’t think you could get the audience for?
SD: Oh boy, that’s a tough one. It’s always a challenge to try to determine what audiences will like. I would like to produce something like Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” or Sater and Sheik’s “Spring Awakening,” but I don’t know if those would appeal to our audiences.
MN: What play would you rather take a bullet than see it again?
SD: Hmmm… I wouldn’t take a bullet for it, but I think I could go without seeing another production of “Grease.” Granted, we did a great production of it here at Maui OnStage – and I had fun as musical director and playing “the main brain” Vince Fontaine – but still.
Tremendous work has gone into preparing for this local production, but Descoulias is very cogent of what makes it possible. “We at Maui OnStage are very grateful to the Maui theater audience. They are the final spoke in the wheel of any production. Without the audience there is no theater”
RENT opens this Friday and runs until Sunday, August 4. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $17 to 28 dollars.
Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story or topic? Get in touch: we want to hear from you. -Vanessa (@mauinow.com)