New Castle News

October 17, 2013

Playhouse stages musical on ‘Rent’ author and composer, Jonathon Larson

Sam Luptak Jr.
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Sometimes, people die much too young. Such was the case with Jonathon Larson.

Larson was the author, composer and creator of one of Broadways biggest and most successful hits, “Rent.” Few shows in Broadway history have run longer or had more success. “Rent” changed the American musical forever.

Sadly, Larson never lived to see that success. On the morning of the first preview of “Rent,” he collapsed and died of a heart issue at only 36 years old. The small body of work he left behind in his short life only serves to make theater-goers wonder what other masterpieces he may have achieved had he lived longer.

Last year, the New Castle Playhouse introduced local residents to Larson’s brilliance when director Paula Ferguson presented “Rent,” his controversial masterpiece. This season, she has returned to that well and is directing Larson’s much lesser known work “Tick, Tick … Boom!”. The musical opens tomorrow in the Annex Theatre.

According to the Playhouse website, “ ‘Tick, Tick . . . Boom!” is the autobiographical tale of Jonathan Larson, a struggling, young composer on the brink of turning 30 with his life seemingly going nowhere.  The musical shows the composer's journey that led to the Broadway mega-hit ‘Rent.’”

Three people make up the show’s cast, with each portraying several roles in the show. They are local theater veterans Matthew DiBattiste, Drew Gaworski, and Renee DiAlesandro.

DiAlesandro, a lifelong New Castle resident,  is excited about the challenges that being the only female in the cast brings.

“It is really a lot of fun!” she said. “I mostly play Susan, the girlfriend of the main character, but I also play all the other female roles in the cast.”

At various moments, DiAlesandro plays the main character’s mother, his agent, a high-powered business executive and the leading female performer of the musical that the main character is writing.

 “I wear a lot of hats.” DiAlesandro said with a slight laugh, but she is no stranger to this challenge. Throughout her long theatrical career she has taken on two or more roles at various times and in various shows.  This, though, marks the most characters she has ever played in any one show.

DiAlesandro brims with excitement as she describes the show, explaining that this is not your typical Broadway musical.

“This is not just another a sing-a-long show, but it is a happy, fun, sometimes silly, and very reflective and very powerful show about a man being pulled in a lot of directions,” she said.

DiAlesandro says that so much of her passion and excitement for this production come from the passions and skills exhibited by Ferguson.

“She is so much fun to work with. She has so much energy.” DiAlesandro said. “Every little comment she makes, you can take so much information from. It is impossible not to be excited around her. Paula really knows her stuff, and she is so much fun to work with.”

DiAlesandro hopes that “Tick, Tick … Boom!” will get the same kind of crowds and response that last year’s “Rent” received. She says that any fan of that show should definitely come see this one.

“Jonathon Larson was a genius,” she said. “His music, there is just nothing else like him. It is a tragedy we lost him with so few shows. I hope everybody will come see it, just because we all could use a little more Jonathon Larson in our lives.”