‘Rent’ still relevant, Vicksburg director, cast say

Published 10:18 am Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Maybe you could say Kimberly Madsen-Thomas is getting an early Christmas present on Thursday when the Westside Theatre Foundation performs “Rent.”

The local dance teacher said she has wanted to do this show since she was a teenager and finally convinced the founder of the WTF, Jack Burns, to take it on.

“The movie came out when I was 15 years-old and it was magical. The characters were awesome and the songs are great,” Madsen-Thomas said.

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Written by Jonathan Larson, the musical is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème, and in addition to winning a Tony Award, the show was chosen as a winner of the 1995-96 Pulitzer Prize, director for the local performance Justin Barnett said.

“The rock musical tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City under the shadow of HIV/AIDs,” Barnett said.

“Rent’s message brings to light the effects of the illness that was once considered a death sentence and even though HIV/AIDs is no longer the killer it once was, Burns said the components of the show are still relevant in today’s society.

“I have gained a whole new appreciation for the musical and what it was at its time and how it spoke to the culture and how it really said, ‘AIDs is an issue, and it is something we all have to look at and deal with,’” cast member Allison East said.

With 5,123 performances on Broadway over a 12-year run, the local production is sure to also entertain.

“This is by far the most talented cast I could be working with,” East said. “Every single one of them is so talented,” and added since “Rent” is such a well-known show those who grew up loving musicals will surely recognize some of the songs performed.

“I think it is everybody’s dream to sing some of these songs, especially one I get to sing, ‘Take Me or Leave Me.’ ” East said. Burns said the musical cast is comprised of local seasoned thespians, newcomers to the stage and three who are traveling from Jackson to be in the show.

To finalize the cast for the musical, Barnett said they put out a casting call on the Metro Jackson Theater’s Facebook page.

Including cast members the ensemble and back stage crew, more than 20 individuals are involved with the local production, Barnett said.

In addition to Madsen, East and Barnett, principle players for the musical are Tommy Pittman, Tyler Gardner, Sonia Arredondo, Jamie Ferguson and Ernest Dickson.

“Rent” opens Thursday night and will also run Friday and Saturday at the Strand Theatre, 717 Clay St.

All performances will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is $15 in advance at the Highway 61 Coffeehouse, 1101 Washington St. or at rentvicksburg.brownpapertickets.com or $18 at the door.

Due to the mature content of the show, Burns said no one under the age of 17 will be admitted.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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