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'RENT' Returns to Off-Broadway Stage

By Della Hasselle | July 19, 2011 6:09pm | Updated on July 20, 2011 6:45am
Matt Shingledecker, who plays 'Roger' from the new RENT, poses outside of New World Stages in Midtown.
Matt Shingledecker, who plays 'Roger' from the new RENT, poses outside of New World Stages in Midtown.
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MANHATTAN — The Bohemian days of Alphabet City are about to return.

"RENT," the seventh-longest running production to grace the Great White Way, is back in previews Off-Broadway, where the saga all began.

The revived musical officially opens on Aug. 11 at Midtown's New World Stages under the eyes of Tony-nominated director Michael Geif, the man who originally directed the play in 1994 before it exploded into fame.

Although the musical only left Broadway three years ago, where it saw 1,517 performances over a period of 12 years, director Geif was eager to revive the musical that touches on New York life in the '80s, complete with AIDS, drug abuse, and the hopelessly optimistic outlook of a young generation made epic by the ballad "La Vie Boheme."

Geif wanted to reimagine the musical with new sets, costumes, choreography and new project design, but it was important to him that the gritty ambiance remain intact for the piece, which opened for previews on Saturday, he told Playbill.com in an interview.

"I think an audience always has to open their hearts to these characters, and I think the reason why they do is because they see the urgency with which these characters are living and they see that mortality is really looking right in their young faces," he told the publication.

Written by Jonathan Larson, who died suddenly of an undiagnosed aortic aneurism the same night as the show's dress rehearsal, the original RENT script is inspired by a Bohemian life of a different time, seen in the Puccini opera "La Boheme."

But by bringing the play back to its humble New York beginnings, Geif hopes to also bring back the original feelings young audiences felt during the play's epic Broadway run, he told Time Out New York.

 “It’s great to be in a small room again,” he told the magazine. “The show sort of bursts at the seams the way it did back then.”