(ORADELL, NJ) -- Bergen County Players (BCP), one of America’s longest-running little theater companies, will open its 91st season on September 9 with Jonathan Larson’s RENT, the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning rock musical that shaped a generation of audiences. Performances begin Saturday, September 9 and will run weekends through Saturday, October 14 at the Little Firehouse Theatre in Oradell with shows on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00pm and Sunday afternoons at 2:00pm.
With music, book and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, direction by Steve Bell, musical direction by Will Rich, and choreography by Diana Baer, this timeless musical reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters — love. Based loosely on Puccini's La Bohème, RENT follows a year in the life of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York's Lower East Side, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. How these young bohemians negotiate their dreams, loves, and conflicts provides the narrative thread to this groundbreaking musical. This is theater at its best – exuberant, passionate, and joyous.
RENT had its world premiere Off-Broadway on February 13, 1996, at New York Theatre Workshop and forever changed the landscape of American theater. It moved to Broadway the same year, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards®, winning for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score; the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Music, and Outstanding Lyrics; and many others. The production ran for 12 consecutive years, becoming one of the longest-running shows on Broadway. The production contains strong language and mature thematic material involving drugs, HIV/AIDS and a broad spectrum of sexuality.
The talented cast of RENT includes Damon Quattrocchi of Stony Point, NY as Roger, Brendan Stackhouse of West New York, NJ as Mark, Na’Jee Tariq of Newark as Collins, Paul Aiello of Little Falls as Benny, Veronica Franco of Morristown as Joanne, Richard Rivera, Jr. of Clifton as Angel, Johanna Ocampo of Saddle Brook as Mimi, Nina LaBarre of Westwood as Maureen, Caelen Mahoney of Saddle Brook as Mark’s mom and others, Amoria Burks of Teaneck as Mrs. Jefferson and others, Jack Dossett of South Orange as Gordon and others, Carlos Palencia, Jr. of Fair Lawn as Steve and others, Michael Fleischer of Tenafly as Paul and others, Melissa Miller of River Vale as Alexi and others, and Stephen Burke of Secaucus as Mr. Jefferson and others.
The production team is comprised of Steve Bell (Director), Nick Nappo and Michele Roth (Co-Producers), Will Rich (Musical Director), Cassandra Barckett (Assistant to the Director), Michele Roth and Kathleen Ruland (Stage Managers), Diana Baer (Choreographer), Jody Laufer (Set Design), Gerard Boucier (Set Construction), Lynne Lupfer and Jessica Lohsen (Décor), Tim Larsen (Sound Design), Allan Seward (Lighting Design), Kathleen Ruland and Sandra Conklin (Lighting Operation), Barry Reed (Sound Operation), Katie Lupfer, Marisa Gore and Felicia Benson-Kraft (Costumes), Sarah Choi, Laura Dinoia, and Barbara Mintz (Properties), Richard Frant (Special Photography), Elaine D’Addezio (Make-up), Staci Beth Block (Improv Coach), Howell Mayer (Member-at-Large), Marci K. Weinstein (Program Bios), Sharla Herbert (Headshot Board), Emily Edwards (Intimacy Director), and Alyson Fernandez (Assistant to the Intimacy Director).
Buddies of New Jersey (NJB), a non-profit, community-based organization, and the New Jersey Chapter of the National AIDS Memorial, are making it possible to showcase a section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Little Firehouse Theatre during the run of RENT. This powerful and timely Quilt exhibition will feature hand-stitched panels of the AIDS Quilt that honor New Jersey residents whose lives were lost to AIDS.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Buddies of NJ and the NAMES Project during our run of RENT,” says director Steve Bell. “RENT is about chosen family, about community, and about living in the moment.”
Bell continues, “Buddies’ mission exemplifies that message exactly. I mean, the theme in RENT is that there is ‘no day but today.’ That’s something I think we all must keep learning, every generation. Stay in the moment.”
Buddies of NJ is a resource center offering a network of support, education and services for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Buddies provides NJHS Licensed Substance Abuse Counseling & Treatment Services; Free Rapid HIV Testing & Counseling; PrEP Counseling and Linkage; Community Health Workers for Re-engagement; Case Management; Medical Case Management; Housing & Housing Assistance; Dental Services; Counseling Services; YMSM Support Spot; Peer Support Groups; Transportation; and a Food Bank. "The message of today is we want to keep our whole neighborhood well and communicating with us to keep HIV out of the picture through education, testing and prevention,” said Ray Welsh, fundraising and events manager for Buddies.
The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, often abbreviated to AIDS Memorial Quilt or AIDS Quilt, is a memorial to celebrate the lives of people who have died of AIDS-related causes. Weighing an estimated 54 tons, it is the largest piece of community folk art in the world as of 2020. It was conceived in 1985, during the early years of the AIDS pandemic, when social stigma prevented many AIDS victims from receiving funerals. It has been displayed on the Mall in Washington, D.C. several times. In 2020, it returned to the AIDS Memorial in San Francisco, and can also be seen virtually.
Acting on its desire to keep its members and patrons safe, Bergen County Players strongly encourages its patrons to be vaccinated for Covid-19 but will not require proof of vaccination to enter the building. The use of face coverings/masks is also very strongly recommended.
PHOTOS BY RICHARD FRANT
TICKET AND SCHEDULE INFORMATION
* All performances take place at The Little Firehouse Theatre at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell, home to the Bergen County Players since 1949. Performance times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm. The matinee on 9/24 is at 1pm due to the Jewish holiday.
* Tickets for RENT are $29 for all performances. Tickets can be purchased online at www.bcplayers.org, by calling 201-261-4200 or by visiting the box office at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell during regular box office hours. Visa, Master Card, and American Express are accepted.
* BCP's popular Questions & Artists talkback session with cast and crew will be held following the performances on Friday, September 22 and Friday, September 29.
* Those interested in Group Sales or benefit theater parties can call (201) 261-4200 (option #6)
* BCP offers seating to accommodate patrons who are mobility impaired and can transfer from a wheelchair. These seats can be purchased by calling the box office at 201-261-4200 and will be released for public sale two weeks prior to performance.
* Advance discount tickets for students age 25 and under with proper ID are available for $18 by phone or walk-up at every performance, pending seat availability. Not available online. There is a limit of one discount ticket per student ID.
* A new program is now available for qualified non-profit organizations to use one performance of each production as a fundraising event. The group will book all 200 seats at a deeply discounted price and then resell the tickets at a price of their choosing, with the difference in price kept by the group. The available date is the Thursday of each show’s final weekend. Interested groups can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
* Parking is free for their patrons at the Park Avenue municipal lot, across the street, one-half block north of the theater, as well as street parking on Kinderkamack Road and various side streets, all within easy walking distance.
The Bergen County Players, Inc. is a non-Equity, non-profit community theater company dedicated to presenting quality productions for the enrichment of the community.