As a child, I had never gone to the theatre very often. Twice on school functions to see La Traviata and La BohemÃ©, but the excursions were restricted. So, as I sat in the hotel room at the New York, New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, with my cousins, my heart pounded with a wild excitement. I was seeing a musical that I loved on stage for the first time. With my cousins Brittany and Sarah, I gleefully found myself in the lobby and exited the hotel’s doors onto “The Strip” in one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. As we bounded down Las Vegas Boulevard at 7pm, we couldn’t stop singing selections form the show at the tops of our lungs. Our voices were only exceeded by our passions for the musical we were about to witness.
When we entered the Paris’ double doored entrance, a large sign displaying “RENT” pointed the way to the casino’s theatre and we were greeted with the repulsive stench of smoke, alcohol, and sweat, but none of the mattered. The only things we cared about were the tickets in our hands. I glanced down at my own and saw I sat in row HH, seat 49. The center of the theatre and right in between two of the most important people in my life.
The uncurtained stage glowed with a Bohemian feel and band members Jared Stein and Trevor Nelson warmed up aimlessly for their two and a half hour show time. As I sat, I was overwhelmed by a sense of belonging. I knew being in front of that stage was were I belonged. My love for the show and for theatre burned deep inside of me before even witnessed the theatrical phenomena.
Bryce Ryness (“Roger” an ex-junkie musician with HIV) walked on stage and my heart lept. Ryness was followed by he rest of the cast: Jed Resnick (“Mark” a filmmaker, documenting his friend’s lives whose ex-girlfriend is Maureen), Warren G. Nolan (“Collins” an HIV positive philosophy professor), Michael Ifill (“Benny” the landlord), Ano Okera (“Angel” Collins’ drag queen lover who has AIDS), Arianda Fernandez (“Mimi” an HIV positive exotic dancer and heroin junkie), Chante-Carmel Fierson (“Joanne” lesbian lawyer, love interest of Maureen) and Tracy McDowell (“Maureen” bisexual performance artist, used to date Mark, is now with Joanne). The smile didn’t leave my face fore the entire first act. Each song touched my soul in ways I couldn’t even imagine.
The second act began with a strong gospel song, Seasons of Love, and the cast exposed emotions of measuring their lives in love and figuring a last year on Earth. This song is the epitome of life everywhere, for it says that even though there are 525,600 minutes in a year, you can measure it in daylights, sunsets, midnights, cups of coffee, in inches, miles, laughter, strife, or even in love. Before I knew it, the cast was singing their last chord of “No day but today” and it was over. I wiped the tears from my eyes and gave the performers a standing ovation for baring their souls and pouring out emotions into characters they exhausted eight times a week.
As my less-than-24-hour trip to Las Vegas came to a close, I reminisced about what message the show provided. You’re not alone. Forget regret or life is yours to miss. Give in to love or live in fear.
No day but today.
Thank you, Jonathan Larson.
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