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BWW Interview: Javon King of the RENT 25TH ANNIVERSARY FAREWELL TOUR Coming to Broadway In Chicago

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Javon King returns to the role of Angel for this latest tour engagement, and he reflected on how his relationship to RENT has changed since the pandemic.

BWW Interview: Javon King of the RENT 25TH ANNIVERSARY FAREWELL TOUR Coming to Broadway In Chicago RENT Actor Javon King Reflects on the Musical's 25-Year Legacy of Love and Hope

While Chicago audiences have waited far more than 525,600 minutes for live theater to return to the city, it's now just a few weeks before the RENT 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour makes its way back. Javon King returns to the role of Angel for this latest tour engagement, and he reflected on how his relationship to RENT has changed since the pandemic and what he hopes audiences take away from Jonathan Larson's musical 25 years after it debuted.

How does it feel to be returning to live performance?

Oh my goodness. It honestly feels a little surreal to be completely honest. I always thought this day would come but now it's here, I'm like, "Are we sure? Is this actually happening?" I'm so grateful. I'm so excited to be back. And going to Chicago is even more amazing.

How do you think your relationship to RENT has changed, as a result of performing in the show pre-pandemic and now rejoining the tour?

When I first joined the tour back in 2018, I had just turned 21. I was a baby. I was in college. I wasn't born when the show was a thing. I had to pull from different scenarios in my life to relate to the AIDS epidemic. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, that was one thing. But I didn't live through the AIDS epidemic like so many people. Now coming out of a pandemic and doing this show, you can swap out the name of something. We all know somebody who has lost their life to COVID or who has been affected. I have a new perspective on the show and a gratitude for it because it relates all over.

Wilson Jermaine Heredia's performance in the original Broadway production and in the 2005 film adaptation of RENT is considered iconic. How do you make the role of Angel your own, and what is it like to play such a beloved role in the musical theater canon?

I love love love this role. And I think the thing I always try to do is honor people who cameBWW Interview: Javon King of the RENT 25TH ANNIVERSARY FAREWELL TOUR Coming to Broadway In Chicago before. Obviously, [Wilson Jermaine Heredia] won the Tony for it. So I honor them by doing the role complete justice. I also add my own type of flair to it. Even though the show is set in the late 80s, early 90s, I add a modern flair to who I am as a person. Bringing Javon into the role is how I make it fun.

Has the time off changed the way that you now approach the character of Angel?

Absolutely. I realized now that I'm a little bit older, just a little, and I can't do the things that I used to do before. I have to warm up before the show. It's a necessity. In terms of getting into character, I feel as I've gotten older, I am becoming more and more hyper, which is interesting. It's not that Angel is hyper, but Angel is so full of love and so full of joy. I tap into my hyper-ness and bring that into the joy and love of who Angel is. [My interpretation of the role] is a little different now but almost the same.

What's your favorite moment in the show?

I think my favorite moment is "Take Me or Leave Me." I love watching Joanne and Maureen sing that song every night. It brings me so much joy. And everything after that gets heavy. That's the last moment for me as a character to enjoy something before we get to the heavy stuff.

This is the 25th anniversary farewell tour. What do you hope audiences take away from RENT watching it now?

I want people to really understand that the show at its core is all about spreading love and joy and hope to everyone no matter who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter the socioeconomic status they come from. I think this show touched on that 25 years ago, and that's still prevalent today in 2021. This is the perfect show to be coming out. It touches on a lot of things and you can easily interchange things from modern day that happened in the late 80s, early 90s. I want them to leave feeling that they can spread change and hope and love into the world. That's what it's done for me doing it again. Reimagining myself as a more hopeful and joyful and not taking anything for granted type of human being.

Watching the film adaptation of RENT was one of the experiences that first made me fall in love with musical theater. Can you tell me about your first experience with RENT, and what that was like?

My first experience was the movie as well. My cousins and I used to watch it when we were BWW Interview: Javon King of the RENT 25TH ANNIVERSARY FAREWELL TOUR Coming to Broadway In Chicago little. We watched it for the first time when I was 12. It wasn't until I started going into the audience process for the show where I really started to deep dive and do my research. This show really has an impactful meaning. It's really special and really beautiful. My first experience was the movie when I was a wee lad.

What excites you most about coming back to Chicago with the show?

I love Chicago. That's probably one of my favorite cities that we went to the first time. It's like a mini New York but also not. The people are so nice. I love that New York is so fast-paced. Chicago has that kind of atmosphere, but it's a little bit slower. It has that Midwestern politeness, which I love.

I also have a bunch of friends in Chicago. I love the atmosphere. I love the theater. The fans were amazing. I'm pumped about going back to Chicago. I wish it was longer than a week.

What does the legacy of RENT mean to you?

I think the legacy for me, it means so much because being asked to come back to the show after doing it, and everything we have all gone through as a country over the past few years. This show has proven time and time again that it will always resonate with audiences no matter if you are 12 or 99 years old. There's a song in the show, a moment in the show, that resonates with people. That's why I think this show has such a profound legacy throughout generations. I hope the show continues, and I hope people continue to reference RENT in life and use the spirit of what Jonathan [Larson] wrote in their own lives and take all that love and hope and carry it on to their children and so on and so forth.

As an actor and as a human living in this world, I will do the same. And I'm so lucky to have a special connection with [RENT].

See Javon King take on the role of Angel when the RENT 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour returns from October 5-10, 2021. Tickets start at $25. Visit BroadwayInChicago.com.

Headshot courtesy of Broadway In Chicago

Production Photos by Carol Rosegg

Interview by Rachel Weinberg


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