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Rent Cast Reunites for Anniversary Party

June 12, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Rent fifth anniversary party and New York Theatre Workshop benefit Studio 54 Monday, 06.04.01, 7:30 PM onward
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Anybody with fifty bucks can hop up to Times Square to see Rent, the cheery-yet-depressing La Boheme-via-the East Village musical. But seeing the show's original cast--which included now-fairly-famous actors Taye Diggs and Jesse L. Martin--is another story. So the show's fifth anniversary party offered a special treat for the theater buffs who crowded Studio 54 to hear songs from the show sung by the original cast, including Diggs and Martin, plus Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Daphne Rubin-Vega (who also performed at the recent Fashion Rocks Broadway benefit at Studio 54).

Guests also got to see Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon (just days after the show's season premiere party) and former first tyke Chelsea Clinton, who served as an honorary chair of the event, which was a benefit for the New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW), the downtown theater company that originally produced the show. The show was also a memoriam of sorts for Jonathan Larson, the show's author, who died of an aortic aneurysm the day before the show's first preview performance in 1996. NYTW will use part of the $300,000 in proceeds from the event for a lab space and endowment named for Larson that will go toward new theater projects.

Before the performance, guests mingled during a champagne reception with a buffet from caterer Betsy Tomashevski and Nicholas Hinton that included chicken on skewers, crab cakes and some tasty breadsticks. Although there was a large crowd around the bar at the back of the room, this event did a good job of keeping people moving around the venue's main floor theater space (which currently houses Cabaret).

At many of the events we've attended here, people have crowded the small bar area, creating a stuffy, overheated cocktail hour. But the waiters at this event brought out tray after tray of food from the stage area, so guests naturally headed toward that area of the space--take note if you're planning an event here.

The actual performance included most of the songs from Rent, plus a few other Larson-penned songs. Visibly delighted to be sharing a stage together again, the cast brought lots of energy to the hour-long performance, and the concert-style setting allowed them to cut loose and laugh, hug and dance whenever they wanted. The crowd ate up the cast's antics, and clearly enjoyed the show. (For the technical side of the show, freelancers Brian Ronan and Blake Burba worked with Studio 54 on the sound design and lighting design, respectively.)

After the show, the cast and guests headed to Studio 54's upstairs lounge space, where DJ Fancy played a 70's disco mix, and a ladylike Chelsea chatted with the show's stars but showed no signs of Bush-daughter-like behavior.

--Chad Kaydo

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