Rent Due in Tampa

One of Broadway’s most revered shows is coming to Tampa.

Rent, with its critically acclaimed music and choreography, opens tonight at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center at 7:30.

An updated version of the rench musical La Boheme, Rent is the story of eight friends trying to survive in New York despite living with AIDS, drug addiction and financial woes, while believing that love will conquer all of their problems. Rent made its Broadway debut in 1996. Unfortunately, the opening night was overshadowed by the death of its writer, Jonathan Larson, that same day.

However, even Larson wouldn’t have been able to imagine the success Rent has experienced in its 10 years on the stage. Rent won 15 awards in its opening year, including four Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book and Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Since then, it has become the theme of a generation, and even had mega success on the big screen last year.

“The themes that the play deals with are very relevant to today’s culture of connection and finding one’s place and also finding a community. We live in an age where proximity is so close with all kinds of cell phones and e-mail … we really live in like a global community. But in terms of intimacy, proximity doesn’t equal intimacy,” said Bryce Ryness, the actor who plays Roger.

There have been mixed emotions from critics about how the success of the movie will affect the success of the play. However, it seems the result from audiences has been nothing but positive.

“Certainly with a movie coming out, whether it was good or bad, it raised awareness of the play. The response to this tour has been pretty overwhelming. I think that people recognize that it’s a musical and existed in its first form on the stage, and that draws people back to the stage to see it again,” Ryness said.

Members of the audience who have seen only the movie can expect much of the same themes and characters in the play, but a much different experience.

“There’s nothing that compares to seeing something live on stage,” publicist Tara McNamara said.

Beyond the success of the film, Ryness believes the show has been able to stay relevant to audiences because of the underlying themes of the play.

“The themes of the play deal with finding intimacy in today’s modern culture. That’s extremely relevant to the college community that’s sifting through the way they feel about the world.”

Rent runs in the Carol Morsani Hall of the TBPAC through Sunday. Show times are 7:30 tonight and Thusday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Running time is two hours and 30 minutes, including one 20-minute intermission. Tickets range in cost from $25.50 $58.50.