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Posted by on Apr 27, 2010 in News | 2 comments

Skylight Opera Presents Rent!

Skylight Opera Presents Rent!

Set in 1989, in New York City’s thriving Bohemian East Village, Rentis a modern take on Puccini’s 1896 classic, La Boheme. With a driving rock score integrating dance, pop, rock ‘n roll, R&B and salsa, Rentfeatures video artists, performance artists, guitarists, strippers, cross-dressers, and drug addicts, all trying to find themselves and find their way in a tumultuous society. Rentsings of our time; of facing an uncertain future with courage, humor, loyalty and love; of celebrating life while struggling to make it. A rock opera bringing musical theatre to the MTV generation, Rentwon the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.

“Bringing Rent to the Skylight Opera Theatre just one season after our production of La Boheme is incredibly important in a SKylight Opera Theatremultitude of ways. We may be the only professional company in the country to produce both of these works; and the opportunity to do so within a years time is a unique and exciting opportunity for Milwaukee audiences.” – Bill Thiesen, Artistic Director

“Even though Rent is a rock opera, we are very pleased to bring a more intimate, accessible version of this Pulitzer Prize winning piece to the Cabot stage. We won’t be blasting out your eardrums as is often the case with Rent. We will be true to the spirit of this extremely important work and at the same time make it a pleasure to listen to this extraordinary score.” – Bill Thiesen, Artistic Director

Skylight will be partnering with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin for Rent. This partnership includes Skylight donating its May 23rd performance of Rent to the ARCW. “Even though RENT debuted in 1994, major themes from the performance continue to resonate in the fight against AIDS,” said Doug Nelson, ARCW President and CEO. “Homelessness and difficulty accessing health care remain significant barriers to achieving a long and healthy life for HIV patients, many of whom live in poverty. We are grateful to everyone at the Skylight Opera Theater for their strong support of ARCW and our housing program.”

AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) – The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin is home to the ARCW Medical Center – Wisconsin’s largest and fastest growing provider of HIV health care. Through its integrated medical, dental and mental health clinics along with social services including food pantries, legal program, housing support and social work case management, more than 1,200 HIV patients gain the health care they need for long term survival with HIV disease.

Donna Drake (Stage Director/Choreographer) – Broadway: original production of A Chorus Line, Sophisticated Ladies, Woman of the Year, The Wind in the Willows, 5678-Dance and the original production of the 1940s Radio Hour. Her work has earned an Emmy nomination, 3 Drama Desk nominations, a Mac Award nomination and a Theatre World Award. Most recently she choreographed Catherine Zeta Jones for the American Film Institute Awards and currently running Off-Broadway she directed a new children’s show, John Tartaglia’s Imaginocean. TV credits include Disney’s Johnny & the Sprites, ABC TV’s Dear Alex & Annie, One Life to Live and The Edge of Night. Regional credits include, The Wizard of Oz, starring Mickey Rooney & Eartha Kitt; Romance In The Dark, starring Jennifer Holliday; Nothing Like A Dame, BC/EFA 2004-06, All the world is a Stage at Carnegie Hall, A Chorus Line, AIDA, Hairspray, Rent, Tommy, Damn Yankees, NEWSicle, Annie, Love Always, Patsy Cline, Smokey Joes Café, Sweet Charity, Honk!, Beauty & the Beast & Chess.

Jamie Johns (Music Director) – Pianist/conductor Jamie Johns is currently a coach/accompanist with Florentine Opera, and a frequent guest artist with the Skylight Opera Theatre. Conducting highlights include The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, Romeo and Juliet, The Coronation of Poppea, and La Traviata. Favorite shows on which Jamie has served as music director are The Last Five Years, Little Shop of Horrors, Cabaret, Archy and Mehitabel, Jacques Brel…, and The World Goes Round. Accompanying Gary Briggle as Noel Coward, Jamie has performed A Talent to Amuse; an evening with Noel Coward, in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Sarasota, Iowa City, and Sacramento. Other companies that Jamie has worked for include Lyric Opera Cleveland, Orlando Opera, Madison Rep, Milwaukee Rep, Bel Canto, Present Music, Writers’ Theatre (Chicago) and Milwaukee Opera Theatre. This fall, Jamie will be a visiting professor at the University Wisconsin-Milwaukee, working in both the music theater and opera departments.

Rhonda Miller (Associate Choreographer) – A founder and co-owner of L.A.’s premier dance studio, The Edge, for many years she was the leader of its successful convention business, L.A. DanceForce. After relocating to New York, Rhonda’s work caught the eye of Broadway director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who included her on his team for the renowned Broadway Bares. Stage credits include Nothing Like a Dame at the Marquis Theater in New York City, ABC Daytime Salutes at Town Hall, The Wild Party, All Shook Up, City of Angels and numerous musicals for NYMF and regional theaters around the country. She is also proud to be Director of the dance program at Pace University in New York City. Some of Rhonda’s television credits include General Hospital, The Boys and Its Garry Shandling’s Show for HBO. Her work has also been seen in commercials and industrials for such Fortune 500 companies as Chrysler, Toys R Us, Warner Brothers and Exxon-Mobil. Recently she was stage director for Nickelodeon Upfronts, and worked with Catherine Zeta Jones on the American Film Institute Awards. She is in development for a new Broadway Dance Project, Eve’s Turn… as well as a production of Chicago at Mainestate Music Theatre.

Lisa Schlenker (Set Designer) – Lisa is most often found managing the Properties Department for the Skylight Opera Theatre, where she is a nineteen-year veteran. An Augustana College alumna in music and theatre, and a 1988 graduate of the MFA program in Theatre Technology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, she is also an active member of the national prop professional organization, The Society for Prop Artists & Managers. In addition to working at the Skylight Opera Theatre, Lisa’s design work has also been seen on the stages of Theatre X, African American Children’s Theater, Renaissance Theatre, Milwaukee Shakespeare Company, Milwaukee Chamber Theater. Lisa is also proud to assist with upkeep of facilities at Skylight Opera Theatre and Broadway Theatre Center. Special thanks to Steve and the prop shop gals for allowing her to work outside the box!

Jason Fassl (Lighting Designer)- Rent marks Jason’s seventh production for Skylight Opera Theatre! His previous Skylight Opera Theatre productions include Madame Butterfly, Little Shop of Horrors, and White Christmas. He has previously worked with companies including The Milwaukee Ballet, Peninsula Players, Next Act Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, First Stage Children’s Theatre (artistic associate), Renaissance Theaterworks (resident designer), and The Fireside (resident designer). Jason toured with The Magic of David Copperfield, the national tour of The Music Man and has served as the head of sound and lighting technician onboard Royal Caribbean International’s MS Monarch and MS Vision of the Seas. In addition to his theatrical work, Jason has extensive experience designing lights for Northwestern Mutual, Johnson Controls, PartyLite, The Pampered Chef, Kawasaki, Caterpillar, and Pierce Manufacturing. He has also collaborated with Rick Wilcox Magic Theater, Terror on the Fox, and Clearwing Productions. Jason holds a BFA from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.

Gary Ellis (Sound Designer)– Gary Ellis is serving in his third year as Skylight’s audio visual supervisor and has been an audio engineer in theatre for over 15 years. He began his career as a software engineer in Silicon Valley, but got hooked on theater after years of watching performances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Shows he has mixed include White Christmas, The Spitfire Grill, The Producers, Blues In The Night, Sunday In The Park With George, Side Show and Violet. Gary studied technical theatre at San Francisco State University. Previously, he worked at The Santa Fe Opera, Theatreworks in Palo Alto, CA and Summer Repertory Theatre in Santa Rosa, CA.

Tommy Hahn (Roger Davis) – Since December of 1995, Tommy has performed in a number of Skylight productions, most notably the role of Freddy in My Fair Lady in 1996. Regionally, he has performed with the Milwaukee Rep, Marriott Theatre at Lincolnshire, Northlight Theatre and Madison Opera. After “retiring” from theatre in 2004, Tommy became the lead singer of the Shepherd Express award-winning Milwaukee rock band, Revolush.

Rick Pendzich (Mark Cohen) – Since graduating from UW-Whitewater’s prolific undergraduate program, Rick has had the blessing of calling himself “a working actor” in his favorite city for seven years. He has played with many of Milwaukee’s favorite companies, including: Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, First Stage Children’s Theatre, In Tandem Theatre, Milwaukee Shakespeare Company, Bialystock and Bloom, and starting it all with an internship at American Players Theatre. Some of his favorite roles are Stanley in Brighton Beach Memoirs, Charlie Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Bert Fineberg in The Jammer and Marcus in (local boy) Neil Haven’s: Get a Life. This is Rick’s first outing with Skylight Opera, and he couldn’t be more pleased with the choice of show for his debut.

Parrish Collier (Tom Collins) – Parrish Collier returns to Skylight where he was last seen in Smokey Joe’s Café and The All Night Strut! Chicago credits include Andre in Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Don in A Chorus Line at Drury Lane Evergreen Park, Simon Zealotes in Jesus Christ Superstar at Drury Lane Oakbrook, Peaseblossom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Zooter in Zoot Suit at the Goodman Theatre, Evita and The King and I at Marriott Theatre, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Rosemont Theatre. Other credits include Bernardo in West Side Story (European tour), Swing for Elektra, Rockies and Components in Starlight Express (Germany) and Four-Eyed Moe in Five Guys Names Moe (UK National Tour).

Ron Lee (Benjamin “Benny” Coffin III)- Ron Lee returns to Skylight after previously performing in Anything Goes, Romeo & Juliet, The Christmas Schooner, The King and I and Once On This Island. A theatre major at UW-Milwaukee, he has worked with Fist Stage Children’s Theatre, Bialystock & Bloom, West Allis Players, Milwaukee Public Theatre, M&W Productions and Hansberry-Sands Theatre Company. He choreographed Duke Ellington and BeyondCategory for African American Children’s Theatre and directed We Are the Drumand Struttin’ Uptownfor C.A.P.I.T.A. Productions. Ron was a Skylight Opera Theatre Resident Artist for the 2003-2004 season.

Julia Black (Joanne Jefferson) – Julia Black (Joanne) is thrilled to be making her Skylight debut. She is a Milwaukee native and a graduate of Pius XI High School. In the past few years, Julia has been performing all around the country and is excited to (finally) be performing on stage in her home town. A few of Julia’s favorite credits include: Cabaret (Sally Bowles), All Shook Up (Lorraine), and Les Miserables (Eponine). Lili Thomas (Mimi Marquez) – Lili was last seen as Mimi in Rent at Playhouse on the Square, which rendered her an “Oustander” nomination for best leading actress. Regional/NYC favorites include: Pippin (Fastrada), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Marcy Park), Miss Saigon (Gigi), The King and I (Tuptim), Reefer Mandness! (Placecard Girl/Dance Captain), The Mikado (Yum Yum), and Crazy for You (Polly Baker). New York City workshops: Sound of Plaid, Radiant Baby (Both with Stuart Ross), and Metropolis (with Golden Glob and Academy Award winning writer, Joseph Brooks). She also participated in the world premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’ Garden of Light (Disney Millennium Symphonies) at Avery Fischer Hall with the New York Philharmonic (Young Soprano Soloist). Lili holds a BFA from Collaborative Arts Project 21-NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Kate Margaret McCann (Maureen Johnson) – Skylight Opera Theatre audiences may remember Kate from Smokey Joe’s Cafe and Blues In The Night. She was most recently seen as Linda in the world premiere of Emerald Man in New York City. Kate has toured internationally in Jesus Christ Superstar and nationally in Smokey Joe’s Cafe as Pattie. Regional credits include Ann Track in Swing!, Lucy in Jekyll and Hyde and woman 1 in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Robert J. Bortman (Chorus) – Robert Bortman was last seen at Skylight in La Boheme. A Milwaukee native, he is a past winner of the WI NATS Musical Theatre Competition. Regional credits include Tony in West Side Story with Sunset Playhouse, Al in A Chorus Line with Soulstice, Ltd, as well as solo and ensemble work with the Waukesha Choral Union and Music by the Lake Singers.

Alison Mary Forbes (Chorus) – Alison has worked locally and regionally with In Tandem, First Stage Children’s Theatre, Milwaukee Shakespeare, and Minneapolis Musical Theatre among others. She returns to the Broadway Theatre Center next season in Jeeves Intervenes with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. Alison holds a degree in Theatre and acting from The University of Minnesota-Minneapolis.

James L. B. Jones (Chorus) – James Jones is excited to be making his debut on Skylight’s main stage for his favorite show! He has performed all over the country and has previously been seen as, Roger in Greendale Community Theatre’s production of Rent, Gudule in Dennis DeYoung’s Hunchback of Notre Dame; at the Bailiwick. Jinx in Forever Plaid; at Apple Holler’s Red Barn Theatre, Cinderella’s Prince aka The Wolf in Into the Woods directed by Dale Gutzman, Pink’s Husband in Pink Floyd’s The Wall with the Milwaukee Rock Opera Company, Annas in Jesus Christ Superstar with Kenosha Youth Performing Arts Company, and worked behind the scenes as a Technical Director for the Bailiwick’s Chicago Premeire of Tell Me On a Sunday, and as a carpenter for the Northlight theater in Skokie, IL. James can also be seen in the movie Bad Boys 2 as a corrections officer.

Bill Rolon (Chorus) – Bill is a recent transplant from NYC where he performed in various productions. Some credits include; Grease!, Madison Square Garden’s The Wizard of OZ and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Locals might have seen him last year in I Love You, Your Perfect, Now Change at Sunset Playhouse or teaching with Danceworks’ MHBT. Bill is also the Corporate and Donor Relations Manager at Milwaukee Ballet and holds a degree in Musical Theater and Education.

Rana Roman (Chorus)- Rana Roman has worked for the Skylight Educational Department for the last four seasons, performing in KidsWrites as well as acting as a teaching artist. Rana’s favorite performing experiences include Thomas and the Library Lady(First Stage), Jazz in the Park(Mr. Lucky Syndicate), Caged Sparrows(A Mile in Her Shoes Productions) and Rent(Broadway National Tour). You can see her singing around town with Nightlife, Mr. Lucky Syndicateand B.t.W. She will aslo be in First Stage’s You Bug Mein February of 2011.

Ericka Wade (Chorus) – Ericka is thrilled to be making her Skylight debut in Rent. Locally she has performed with a number of theatre companies; most recently with First Stage Children’s Theater, the Boulevard Ensemble and Uprooted Theater.

Nigel Wade (Chorus) – Nigel is a Milwaukee native who is no stranger to the open mics and Poetry Slams around Milwaukee. After participating in the Midwest Slam League, and winning a few slams, the poetry scene demanded more from this unorthodox spoken word artist. Drawn in by his animated performance and unique poetic style, Nigel was told that he had a “unique sound” by Poetry Slam Inc founder Mark Smith. It was because of this unique style that earned him a spot on multiple Milwaukee National Slam Teams. His most recent accomplishment was being named the 2010 Milwaukee Grand Slam Champion; he will also represent Milwaukee in the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam in August.

Orchestra Keyboard: Jamie Johns & Fred Pike Guitar: Bob Monagle Drums/percussion: Michael Lorenz Bass: Tom McGirr

Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson; Original Concept/Additional Lyrics by Billy Aronson

Performance dates: May 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30; June 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Good to Know Before the Show

Cabaret Performances…What A Pair – The Best of Becky Spice & Jamie Johns: following all Friday and Saturday evening performances in the Skylight Bar & Bistro. There is not a cabaret performance on opening night.

Food and Drink… Skylight Bar & Bistro by Kafevino, located on the second floor of the Broadway Theatre Center, is a full-service bar open two hours before performances, at intermission and after performances with the exception of Sunday evenings. For reservations, call (414) 224-4900.

Skylight Insights… Join us for an opportunity to learn more about Skylight Opera Theatre productions. Associate Artistic Director Ray Jivoff will lead pre-performance talks one hour before curtain for every Wednesday and Sunday performance.

Box Office Information Skylight Opera Theatre’s Box Office is located in the Broadway Theatre Center at 158 North Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53202. Phone: (414) 291-7800

Hours…Monday through Saturday noon to 6:00 p.m. and two hours prior to all performances. Skylight tickets are available for purchase online at — 24 hours a day/7 days a week! Ticket Prices…There are four price levels in the Cabot Theatre. Prices range from $62 to $20 before discounts are taken.

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