Jonathan Larson died suddenly and tragically at the age of 35, hours before his first major work “Rent” was set to debut.  The musical, drawn from his days struggling to be an artist in an unheated loft in Greenwich village, coupled with his desire to pay tribute to Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Boheme,” led Larson to create a rock opera set in New York.

Weekends until Saturday, May 22, you can have the privilege of being up close and personal with this energized production at Kris McMurray’s Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin.  This amazing young cast will tell their tales of poor struggling artists with color and compassion, heart and soul, and make Larson’s lyrics sing with tragedy and promise.

Just like the show’s main character Mark (Ian Starr), Larson and his roommates had an illegal, wood-burning stove as their only source of heat and he also dated a dancer for many years who eventually left him for a woman.  Meet Maureen (Kara Neilsen) and her new partner Joanne (Jennifer Ireland), both impressive women who know where they are going.  Maureen has one of the main standout numbers “Over the Moon” which she performs with verve and style.

Jonathan Larson tackled difficult topics in his works:  homosexuality and homophobia, AIDS and drug addiction as well as survival, friendship and love.  In his version, Mark the independent film maker is based on Puccini’s painter Marcello, his roommate Roger (James Francis McKirdy), a songwriter with HIV is drawn from Puccini’s poet Rodolfo and Roger’s lover is Mimi (Blanca Grande), an exotic dancer with HIV modeled after Puccini’s Mimi, a seamstress with tuberculosis.

You’ll also meet Angel (Matthew Collin Marrero), the drag queen, his partner the philosophy professor Tom (Marques Ruff) and Bennie (Jonathan Escobar), their not-so-nice landlord.

For tickets ($30), call the Connecticut Cabaret, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin (route 9, exit 22, Mill Street) at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com.  Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.  Bring snacks and drinks or buy some at the concession stand. A special performance has been added tonight only at 8 p.m. for $20.  Call now.

Let Jonathan Larson introduce you to his theatrical world as he struggles to survive in the shadow of HIV/AIDS in New York’s Lower East Side.  You will not soon forget the Bohemian experience.

This will appear in the Middletown Press on May 20.

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