‘Rent’ comes due with cleaned-up musical in Ridge • Brooklyn Paper

‘Rent’ comes due with cleaned-up musical in Ridge

Students at Fort Hamilton HS in Bay Ridge will be putting on the borough’s first rendition of the musical “Rent” — but a curse-free version.
The Brooklyn Paper / Ben Muessig

Rent” just got redacted.

Some of Bay Ridge’s youngest actors will be the first Brooklyn troupe to perform Jonathan Larson’s acclaimed rock opera “Rent” — but they’ll be staging a tamer version of the controversial Broadway play.

Students at Fort Hamilton HS on Shore Road are rehearsing “Rent: The School Edition,” which eliminates dirty words and sexually graphic lyrics — plus cuts entirely the sex song “Contact” — from the Tony Award-winning drama about homosexuality, AIDS, and bohemian life in the East Village in the 1990s.

But just because this “Rent” is cleaner doesn’t mean it’s been censored, claimed director William Coulter.

“The harsher and more colorful language is removed and the more sexually visual songs are removed, but the relationships do not change and the issues do not change,” he said.

Even though all of the f-words and s-words have been shorn from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play — the “f word” becomes “very” in many cases — Fort Hamilton students won’t be shying away from the play’s R-rated subject matter.

Senior Jennifer Arais will play a go-go dancer with HIV, sophomore Tyler Van Brussel will play a gay anarchist professor with AIDS — a triple threat! — and junior Mark Diaz will play a transvestite who dies of the disease.

The young actors say they are ready to deal with the adult themes on stage — because they are already dealing with them in real life.

“Homosexuality and AIDS are in the world, so if it’s out there, we should be talking about it,” said Diaz. “These things need to be accepted. It’s important that we discuss them.”

Coulter said he chose “Rent” — which is loosely based on Puccini’s opera “La Boheme” — not only because his students can relate to it, but because they were already familiar with the show or its 2005 film adaptation.

“Did we choose the show here to create controversy? No. We chose it because it’s popular with our students. They love the music, they love the characters, and they love the play,” he said.

But just because the students love the play, doesn’t necessarily mean that their parents felt that same way.

Auditions for “Rent: The School Edition” drew about 125 students — a Fort Hamilton record according to Coulter. But that number shrunk to about 100 when students were asked to return a waiver signed by their parents — a requirement by the company that licenses the play.

“When my mom found out that I wanted to be Joanne, she asked me if I was sure that I wanted to play a character who is a lesbian,” said freshman Tatiyana Holliday. “She thought people might say I was a lesbian just because I was playing the role.”

But actors in the cast of 40 claim they aren’t concerned about the show carrying a stigma — especially because it has already sparked more excitement around Fort Hamilton’s hallways than last year’s rendition of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

“There’s so much talk about us being the first to do ‘Rent’ in Brooklyn,” said senior Maria Korneychuk, president of Fort Hamilton’s Drama Club. “All of my friends — even the ones that go other schools — are asking me how they can get tickets.”

“Rent: The School Edition” at Fort Hamilton HS [8301 Shore Rd., between 83rd Street and Shore Road Lane in Bay Ridge, (718) 748-1537)], $10. April 28: 4:30 pm; April 29: 7:30 pm; April 30: 7:30 pm; May 1: 7:30 pm; May 2: 2 pm and 7:30 pm; May 3: 7:30 pm.

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