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A weekly series focused on Bloomington-Normal's arts community and other major events. Made possible with support from PNC Financial Services.

No day but Sunday: For one night only, 'Rent' stops in Bloomington

The Company of the RENT 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour, stopping in Bloomington on Nov. 21
Carol Rosegg
The company of the "Rent 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour" will stop Sunday, Nov. 21, in Bloomington.

It’s been 13,140,000 minutes, give or take, since “Rent” first premiered on Broadway in 1996, and hit songs like “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme” changed the musical theater landscape in immeasurable ways.

Now, Jonathan Larson’s enduring rock musical is traveling the country on a farewell tour, reviving Benny, Mark, Roger, Collins, Angel, Maureen and Joanne one last time. The tour stops at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) on Sunday, Nov. 21, for a one-night-only performance.

BCPA artistic manager JongHun Kim said he first learned about the show because of its similarities to Puccini’s famous opera, “La Boheme.”

“I used to be an opera singer. That was my first career,” Kim said. “I used to perform ‘La Boheme,’ and I was Schaunard, which is the character Angel in ‘Rent.’”

Kim toured with “La Boheme” in Italy and learned about “Rent” about 20 years ago when he immigrated to the United States. Once here, he did music direction for a high school production of the show and said bringing it to Bloomington-Normal holds personal significance.

“I know the story in and out. The message of ‘Rent’ is very relevant to me as a person because of my lifestyle. I wanted to bring this amazing show to our community and show them, this is fun yet it has so many different messages.”

“Rent” profiles a group of young people making their way in New York City. The musical addresses LGBT sexuality and the AIDS crisis, serving as a watershed moment in contemporary musical theater at the time by tapping into relatable themes and characters, and directly addressing important issues of the day.

Kim says that, while he’s sure the show will attract people in their 40s and 50s who remember “Rent” from their early adulthoods, he also thinks teenagers and young adults will love the show.

“Everyone has to come to see this amazing show to spark their lives,” he said.

Kim began his job at the BCPA early in 2020, just before the pandemic hit. As artistic manager, he’s responsible for all the performances produced by the venue. When he first arrived, Kim said he spent time talking to community members and listening to what sort of arts they value.

Programming the 2020-21 season was his way of showing the community he was listening—part of a long-term initiative to invite more diverse audiences to the BCPA. Just as he was getting ready to announce his inaugural season of programming, everything shut down.

“I was very devastated,” Kim said. “Making the schedule is the way I communicate with our community. That communication pipeline just disappeared. But now—I’m so happy!”

You can see “Rent” on Sunday, Nov. 21 at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Bloomington. For tickets and information about any of the shows that are part of the 2021-22 season, visit artsblooming.org.

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Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.
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