Welk Theatre stretches with opening of ‘RENT’
By Emily Sorensen
The Welk Theatre is taking on something a little different with its production of “RENT,” opening Thursday, Sept. 20 and running through Sunday, Oct. 28.
The Welk’s production is being directed by Daniel Mojica, who has previous directed and choreographed “Footloose” and “Man of La Mancha” for the theater. “A show like this, which is all-encompassing, is great for a director/choreographer,” said Mojica, a former stage performer who has been directing and choreographing for twenty-five years and directing for fifteen. This is Mojica’s first time directing “RENT.” “It’s a show I’ve always really loved,” said Mojica, “it’s kind of a good show for me.”
The rock opera tells the story of one year in the life of a group of young bohemian twenty-somethings in New York as they deal with AIDS, addiction, poverty, love, sex and loss. The show debuted off-Broadway January 25, 1996, one day after show creator Jonathan Larson tragically died at the age of 35. “[RENT] encompasses a lot: relationships, love, people expressing themselves, but also the other side of it, politics, rebellion, disease and addiction,” said Mojica.
The show is a first for the Welk Theatre as well, something Mojica was enthusiastic about. “The exciting thing is that the Welk is taking on a musical like this,” said Mojica. “How great it is to expand and bring this to the venue.”
Though Mojica says he hasn’t made any major changes to the 16-year-old show, he has worked to make the show “more accessible” to the audience, including embedding screens in the set to include live video. “The show is true to life,” said Mojica. “I’m adding a bit more to make it fun and flavorful.” The live video screens will show the video that the character of Mark is actually filming on stage as he makes his documentary. Mojica said that in a theater as large as the Welk, the screens will be important as they allow the audience to see the emotions on the actors faces.
Mojica said he was also working to make sure the show’s story is easy for the audience to understand. “The biggest goal for this audience is to present as simple a story as possible,” said Mojica. “We want to be very clear what we’re talking about, addiction, AIDS.”
Fans of “RENT” know that the show contains a large amount of swearing as well as sexual situation. Mojica said he has made estate-approved language changes to the script, but hasn’t fundamentally altered the story, or the issues it presents. “We didn’t want to take the issues out,” said Mojica, “because then it’s not ‘RENT,’ and we shouldn’t do ‘RENT.’” Mojica emphasized that it was not a play for younger audiences. “We have to be respectful to the audience, and also to the estate.”
Mojica also praised his cast, saying “it’s not just a talented cast, but a smart cast.” Most of the cast are local to the San Diego area, according to Mojica. “The talent base out here is really strong, actually,” said Mojica. “The entire cast, from top to bottom, are powerhouses of singing, acting and dancing. There’s not a bad egg in there.”
The Welk Theatre is located at 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido. Performance times are 1 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, and 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Ticket prices vary, no one under 17 will be admitted. For tickets and more information, visit welkresorts.com/san-diego-theatre.
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