Summerstock Delivers Rent: School Edition

by Michelle Wood · 0 comments

It’s a great idea. From July 28 until August 8 at Olympic Plaza, dozens of young actors take to the stage to showcase their talent in a production of one of the most popular Broadway musicals of our time. Calgary’s only open-air theatre is the perfect venue. The energy of the show is aptly uncontained, and its youthful spirit easily finds its way to the audience.

The production is Rent: School Edition, and the organization behind it is Summerstock. Based out of Westmount Charter School, Summerstock is a not-for-profit organization which gives young Calgary performers theatrical training, as well as a venue in which to exhibit their skills. All proceeds from the show go towards scholarships for the actors, some of whom, in previous years, have transitioned from Summerstock to prestigious schools where they have the opportunity to further develop their abilities.

Executive Producer Jayson Krause says that this year’s production is the largest and most elaborate project that Summerstock has taken on in its seven-year history. The producers of the show saw over 3000 auditions from Calgary-area high school and first-year university students, the largest turnout yet.

Rent: School Edition is a slightly modified version of the original Broadway musical. Some explicit content has been removed for the benefit of younger performers and audience members. However, this is not to say that the controversial nature of Rent is diminished. AIDS, sexuality and drug addiction are all thematic elements of the show. They are not used exploitatively, but rather as cultural watermarks of the East Village bohemian lifestyle of the 1990’s.

The production itself is delightfully frenzied, lively and fluid. The actors successfully channel the mood and spirit of the larger-than-life characters whom they portray, and it is obvious that each of the 70 performers have worked tirelessly on the production. (Also—please don’t overlook the skill that is required to walk and dance in platform and stiletto-heeled boots). It’s a joy to see such burgeoning talent in action, and the use of cast-as-prop lends a sense of community and connection between the actors and their audience.

This week, come down to Olympic Plaza to catch the show. Performances begin each evening at 6:36 pm and run until August 8th. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. For more info, please visit www.summerstock.ca

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