Student-run ‘Rent’ musical to be performed during Mom’s Weekend

For its 104th student-run production, the Illini Union Board will put on a performance of the hit musical “Rent.” The show will be the newest addition to a long list of performances for the organization. 

The Illini Union Board’s annual spring musical, “Rent,” will have shows Friday and Saturday night at Lincoln Hall Theater beginning at 8 p.m. The rock musical’s plot focuses on a group of friends struggling together in New York. The play documents the struggles of those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as the pains and joys of a group of friends during a year of their lives.  

The Illini Union Board’s Director of Musicals and Drama Kelly Cole, sophomore in Engineering, will produce the student-run production. This is Cole’s first year as director of musicals and drama for the organization. 

Cole said she expects a very large turnout, as the musical’s Facebook page already has over 200 people shown as “attending.” Presale tickets are $15 and $18 at the door. Students are invited to bring their moms and families to watch the show because the event will be one of many events for Moms Weekend on campus.

“Rent has a really powerful meaning behind it,” Cole said.

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    Cole said she had to work from the ground-up to get recruits for the musical. Along with the production staff, she said she advertised for the musical, held auditions and selected directors and cast members. As producer, Cole said she oversaw a lot of the backstage work for the performance, while filling in for different roles as needed. 

    The production team was formed in January, and auditions for the pit and cast were held in the beginning of February. Cole said she is fully confident that the cast and pit are ready for the show because most of the students in the cast of “Rent” have had previous experience in theatre.

    One of those students, Gwen Lavigne, junior in LAS, said she decided to join the musical cast this semester because of her background in her high school’s musicals. She said she heard about the production through “chatter on Facebook.” Lavigne will play a variety of roles including a parent, coat vender and a homeless person throughout the musical. 

    The rehearsal period, which began in February, has been unusually short. She said that everyone involved has “gotten very close, very quickly” because of the short rehearsal process. The experience has led her to want to continue being a part of musicals either through the Illini Union Board or other organizations on campus. 

    Lavigne said that her family and friends will be in attendance of the performance and that she is excited and ready for the musical. 

    “It’s a very emotional show, something that everyone’s been very emotionally invested in,” she said. 

    Matthew Littig, freshman in DGS, is also a part of the ensemble in the musical and plays a homeless person. 

    Littig said he initially checked out the musical’s Facebook page to gather information on how to be a part of the show. He said he was involved with musicals all throughout junior high school and continued in high school. 

    Because of the subject matter of the plot, he said the relationships between cast members have become important aspect to the performance’s success. 

    “This is a very emotionally-heavy show,” he said. “Because of that, some of the obstacles are making sure relationships with other cast members are going well.” 

    Littig said that sometimes after a rehearsal, he has felt down because of the intense events in the plot and emotions in the story. 

    “It’s been a very cathartic show for me. I’m more apt to see glimmers of hope in everyday life,” he said. 

    But despite the difficultly in performing in the show, he said that he believes the theme of the musical is that hope always exists.

    “(‘Rent’ is) very relatable, even if the subject matter isn’t what people are going through,” he said. “It’s about a group of friends going through everyday struggles in a year’s time. Even when things seem really bad, you can still find hope in that.” 

    Victoria can be reached at [email protected].