Monday, August 15, 2016



Christmas Eve should be a time for celebration, reflection and admiration, unless you are hungry, cold, virtually homeless and without prospects for the future.  Squatters in an abandoned New York City tenement dealing with life and death issues like AIDS hardly seem the stuff of musical magic but Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” has achieved cult status and Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, a winning effort by a young man who tragically died the night before the play’s off-Broadway opening.

Larson was the composer and lyricist of this rock opera and his untimely death is a tragic footnote to the story he spent seven years creating.  Using the tale of Puccini’s opera “La Boheme” as a framework, he made the 1840’s characters into 1990’s artists, struggling to meet the next rent bill as they strive for creative validation in their chosen fields.

Until Sunday, August 28, the Ivoryton Playhouse is welcoming a troupe of perpetual motion youth, high energy and talented, who will fill the rafters with an electrifying wattage of enthusiasm.  These ragtag bohemians create a community that morphs into a family as they struggle daily to earn their crust of bread.

Instead of the tuberculosis that Puccini’s heroine Mimi contracts, this time the ominous specters are drugs and AIDS that claim young lives in their prime. One of Larson’s goals was to portray these accomplished artists and to show how tragedy strikes in their ranks. Mark, a visual recorder Tim Russell, is the narrator and cinematographer who chronicles all the activities in the loft.  He is alone as he copes with the reality that his ex-girlfriend Maureen, a vibrant Stephanie Genito, has a new relationship with Joanne, an understanding Maritza Bostic.  Meanwhile his roommate Roger, a frustrated Johnny Newcomb, is trying desperately  to compose one “glory” song before AIDS takes him.  His chance meeting with another AIDS patient Mimi, a seeking for love Alyssa V. Gomez, may be just the impetus he needs and the candle of inspiration he is searching to find.

The holiday boasts no holly and no heat, no mistletoe and no money, but this motley clan have gathered to celebrate with the natural exuberance that the young cling with hope to so promisingly.  Songs like “Seasons of Love” with its 525,600 minutes in a year, the soulful “Without You,”  the dance of protest in “Tango: Maureen” and the “Over the Moon” by Maureen that is, well, over the moon wonderful are just four of the over forty tunes that light their fires.  Jacqueline Hubbard directs this energy fest, with her supportive team of Michael Morris as Music Director, Todd Underwood as Choreographer, and Martin Scott Marchitto as Scenic Designer.

For tickets ($50, senior $45, students $22, child $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees August 20 and 27 and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Are you willing to share your last crumbs of bread?  Yes, if it is with a coterie of friends who are really family.

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