BWW Interview: Chip Danver Takes on RENT, Opening Tonight at Wall Street Night Club
Chip Danver will be hitting a personal milestone when Imagine Productions' presentation of RENT opens 7:30 p.m. tonight, May 7 at the Wall Street Night Club. Opening night will mark the first time Danver, who plays Mark Cohen in the Jonathan Larson musical, has seen the show in person.
"When my sisters were going to it, I was 'still too young' ... at least in my mother's eyes," Danver says with a laugh. "My first experience with RENT was the soundtrack. I listened to that for years before the movie came out (in 2005). The (2008) Broadway DVD of it is the only live version I've seen."
Danver is part of 18-member cast that will bring the 1996 musical, based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème, back to Columbus. The show features some the 90s biggest Broadway hits including "Seasons Of Love," "Will I?" and "Without You." It won four Tonys, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, and six Drama Desk awards in 1996.
Danver plays Cohen, a struggling documentary filmmaker who serves as the show's narrator. Cohen and Roger Davis (played by Brent Rayburn) share a loft in an artsy community in New York City's East Village.
On Christmas Eve, Cohen and Rogers find out they have to pay a year's worth of rent to their former friend Benjamin Coffin III (Ricardo Locci) or face eviction.
Davis becomes romantically involved with a neighbor Mimi Marquez (Cassie Kahr), a stripper and Coffin's former lover. The trio, along with a group of friends, conspires to keep Coffin from turning their loft into office space.
Danver says he relates a lot to Cohen.
"He's kind of distant. He's very outside the events. He would rather record what is happening and reflect on it than engage in life actively," Danver says. "I feel like I'm always like that. I'd rather be in a group of friends listening to their conversations and reflect on what they are saying than jump in. I feel very akin to Mark that way."
Brian Gray (Tom Collins), Zhane Dawlingz (Angel Dumott Schunard), Zoe Lathan (Maureen Johnson) and Alex Lanier (Joanne Jefferson) make up the rest of the title characters. Jeremy Brown, Steven Carnahan, Michael Carozza, Akillah Clark, Cassie Gress, Lena Haleem, Meredith Post, Andrew Protopapas, Elena Reinert and Abby Zeszotek round out the ensemble.
Danver was talked into trying out for the show by many people including director Jonathan Collura and choreographer Brittany Steel.
Being in shows used to be a way of life for Danver. He was an active member of the theater scene at Bishop Hartley High School until he graduated in 2008. Between going to school and working the third shift after graduation, Danver became too busy to act.
"I really missed singing with a group of people. That was something I loved doing," Danver says. "I'd find myself singing in the car with soundtracks like RENT, WICKED and PARADE. (Being involved with theater) was something that was a big part of my life in my formative years."
When the opportunity to do RENT came along, he couldn't pass it up. While the subject matter might be a little too risqué for some people's tastes, RENT speaks to a lot of different groups of people.
"It's very powerful show," Danver says. "I hope they can really connect with the characters.
"Some people may get turned off by parts of the show but it tells a very true, very painful story that occurs a lot in our modern world. I want people to experience the emotions of the show."
RENT opens 7:30 p.m. May 7 at the Wall Street Nightclub (144 North Wall Street in downtown Columbus) and runs May 9-11 and 14-18.