Danny Scheie to direct student cast in ‘revolutionary’ rock musical

UCSC student cast of Rent
(photo by Steve DiBartolomeo)

UCSC Theater Arts professor Danny Scheie will direct a student cast in the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical, Rent--May 16 through June 1, at the UC Santa Cruz Mainstage Theater.

Rent spotlights a group of bohemian artists--several of whom are living with AIDS—as they struggle to hold on to their friendships and non-conformist ideals in New York's East Village.

Jonathan Larson wrote the book, lyrics, and music for the 1996 rock musical, based on Giacomo Puccini's popular opera La Bohème, which premiered in 1896. Larson modified the disease in the play from tuberculosis to AIDS and recast the story from 19th-century Paris to contemporary New York. 

Although Rent is often presented as an energetic and touching musical celebration of art, love, friendship, and life, Scheie has a different idea for the UCSC production-- planning to place extra emphasis on the show's social and political themes.

"Somehow Rent got kind of 'cute' in the American imagination," Scheie noted. "I'd like to rediscover some of the more angry, revolutionary elements in the show."

This is a busy month for Scheie. In addition to his active teaching and directing schedule, the award-winning actor can also be seen in Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw, opening May 2 at the Jewel Theatre Company in Santa Cruz.

Music director Colin Hannon, who worked with Scheie on UCSC's hit production of Hair in 2010, will lead the band for Rent.

Theater Arts Professor David Lee Cuthbert, who recently designed the lighting for Billy Crystal's show 700 Sundays on Broadway (and for the HBO special), is the lighting and set designer. 

Tickets for RENT are available at santacruztickets.com, the UCSC Ticket Office (831-459-2159), or the Santa Civic Box Office (831-420-5260).