“COVID’s over, time to pay RENT”

By Michael Maruk & Alexandra White – Art Director & 1851 Contributor

The cast of RENT performing “La Ve Boheme” to close out Act One. Photo by Dan Fox

The season of love was back in full swing from November 17 through 20 when Lasell University and Regis College teamed up to perform the musical “RENT,” now going on its 25th anniversary. The show was held at Regis’ Eleanor Welch Casey Fine Arts Theater and it has been a long time coming since COVID-19 shut down most events in the last year. As most of the cast and directors have said, it sure was exciting for everything to be back in person.

“RENT” centers around roommates Mark and Roger as they fight against their former roommate Benny, who plans to evict them. The musical tells the story of their group of friends as they struggle to survive HIV/AIDS and addiction in New York City. 

Director and Lasell alum Jamie Nicole Imperato (‘15), says while COVID-19 was a challenge, having live theater again is special. “It’s emotional. It’s very much like coming home. This is also the original crew from when we did “Children of Eden” two years ago. So to come back during the pandemic is really special for all of us to restart again.” 

Junior fashion design major Kiersten Brown played Joanne, Mark’s ex-girlfriend, Maureen’s girlfriend. Brown says the message behind the show is her favorite part. ““RENT” is about making do with what you have but still trying to follow your dreams no matter what. The tagline is ‘no day but today.’ It’s such a timeless story that is so meaningful.” 

This is the third collaboration between the two schools and features current Lasell and Regis students, as well as Lasell graduates. Jimmy Kappatos (‘20) is among the alumni to star in the musical. “Performing just brings me joy. I missed that, I hadn’t performed since I left Lasell… my love for the Lasell community brought me back.”

Behind the scenes images of RENT rehearsals. Photos by Mike Maruk

Kappatos played Roger Davis, a musician battling HIV, “It was refreshing to come back and see people I hadn’t seen in so long and put on a show that people would like and that we would like.”

Senior psychology major Dante Torri played ex-roommate to Mark and Roger, Benny. This is Torri’s third production for Lasell alongside Regis performing in “Footloose” and “Children of Eden.” “I absolutely love the dynamic between the two schools. Especially because they have an absolutely amazing theater space that we are very thankful to use. But I also love it because of the friends at Regis that I got to make,” said Torri.

Working through and during a time like COVID-19 was another hiccup the cast, crew, and directors had to work through. Torri adds, “we would get tested like three times a week, just to make sure everyone was safe and that we’re all doing good. We did have clear masks on during the production, which, for a show like “RENT,” was definitely hard sometimes because there’s a lot of kissing scenes and stuff like that. So we reworked them a bit, and in the end, we made it work.”

Sophomore in radio & video production Jenny Frechette from Lasell played the role of “junky” and other background characters on stage. This was Frechette’s second show with Lasell and Regis after working on the cabaret style of theater with “Just Another Day” last year, with this being her first live performance for both schools. “I feel like all the shows went well. I mean, we had our obstacles, but we pushed through and we did… I think we did a pretty good job with it. So, pretty proud of everybody,” said Frechette. 

When asked if she could do anything differently or again she replied, “this was such an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again. I feel like everything was done so well. Hopefully next time, we’ll have less problems with COVID-19, and we won’t have to wear masks or take those kinds of precautions. But other than that, everything went swimmingly.”

Music director Jack McShane says while there were some obstacles to overcome, the crew did a great job. “It’s a strong product. The cast has worked really hard. This has been a growing process for all of us and they really stepped up.”

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