Broadway's Next Generation of Stars in NJPAC's Summer Musical Collaboration with New Jersey Youth Theatre

Broadway's Next Generation of Stars in NJPAC's Summer Musical Collaboration with New Jersey Youth Theatre

Talented young actors from across New Jersey will breathe new life into Jonathan Larson's Broadway-changing, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical, Rent, this summer in the annual summer musical collaboration between the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and the New Jersey Youth Theatre (NJYT). Rent opens in NJPAC's Victoria Theater on July 16 and runs for nine performances, through July 25, before touring to the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan, NJ. Tickets for the NJPAC performances, which range from $20-$30, are available by telephone at 1-888-GO-NJPAC (1-888-466-5722), at the NJPAC Box Office at One Center Street in downtown Newark, or by visiting the

A modern take on the beloved Puccini opera, La Boheme, Rent's powerful score and poignant story follow a year in the lives of a group of impoverished young artists living the disappearing Bohemian lifestyle in New York's East Village during the late 1980s. They help each other survive the physical and emotional complications of AIDS, relationships, and financial hardships.

The NJPAC/NJYT production of Rent features a multi-cultural cast of 19 talented young New Jersey actors. The program prepares aspiring performers and technicians for the professional theater. Sets, props and wardrobe operations will be in the hands of professionals assisted by young technical interns in each area. Performers are selected through a rigorous audition process. This year's cast was selected from approximately 250 hopefuls. There is no fee to participate and the company follows the rules and disciplines of an Actors' Equity company.

The cast for the NJPAC/NJYT production of Rent includes: Shayne Kennon of Montclair, NJ as Roger; Mike Zimmerman of Somerville, NJ as Mark; Chelsea Cortes of Hamilton, NJ as Mimi; Derrick Hicks of New Brunswick, NJ as Benny; Lauren Campbell of Cranford, NJ as Maureen; Te La Curtis-Lee of North Brunswick, NJ as Joanne; J. Aaron Boykin of New Brunswick, NJ as Tom, and M.J. Rodriguez of Newark, NJ as Angel. Other company members include Monica Ban of West Milford; NJ, Steven Michel of Bloomfield, NJ; Nicholas Magliocco of Matawan, NJ; Jeanel LeBlanc of Hillside, NJ; Jimmy Smith of Pompton Plains, NJ; Chris Gordon of Succasunna, NJ; Melanie Porras of Summit, NJ; Laura Soto-Bayomi of Secaucus, NJ; Christopher Cordero of West Milford, NJ; Jessica Milne of New Milford, NJ; and Joe Tolentino of Fairlawn, NJ.

"Rent is about human beings trying desperately to connect with other human beings, accepting each other in spite of great flaws, and learning to survive and be there for each other in a world that seems to become more difficult by the second," said Cynthia Meryl, Artistic Director and co-founder of New Jersey Youth Theatre. "In today's world of Twitter, Facebook, and an over abundance of ever-advancing communication devices, Rent reminds us to remember our humanity."

Cynthia Meryl directs the production, with musical direction by Ilene Greenbaum and choreography by Assistant Director Sherry Alban.

Sandra Bowie, Vice President of Arts Education at NJPAC, said of the production, "We are excited to again partner with New Jersey Youth Theatre for a summer filled with the highest level of theater training for young artists from all over New Jersey. Rent is more than a Broadway musical, it has and continues to be a life enhancing and life changing experience for many. This production allows us to bring together talented students from many New Jersey communities to restage this engaging, energetic and exciting contemporary musical."

Past NJPAC/NJYT Summer Musical productions include last year's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as well as productions of 1776, Ragtime: The Musical (named by The Star-Ledger as "Best Musical 2006"), Guys & Dolls, Anything Goes, West Side Story (recipient of the 2003 Music Theatre International Award of Excellence), South Pacific, Once On This Island, Brigadoon, Oliver!, Carousel and the NJYT original, Midnight Madness.

As with past productions, Rent tours to the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan, New Jersey after the NJPAC performances, where it will run from Friday, July 30 to Sunday, August 8. Tickets are available at or by calling 731-528-9211.

New Jersey Youth Theatre, formerly known as the Westfield Young Artists Cooperative Theatre, is one of the most celebrated youth theater companies in New Jersey, enabling young artists to receive the highest caliber, professional level theatrical experience and education possible. Performers learn firsthand about musical theater by participating in a full-scale, professional level production.

New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, New Jersey, is the sixth largest performing arts center in the United States. As New Jersey's Town Square, NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the State's and the world's best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted over 6 million visitors (more than one million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents. NJPAC's Arts Education Department is the fourth largest arts education department of a performing arts center in the country. Visit for more information.

The NJPAC/New Jersey Youth Theatre Summer Musical Program is made possible in part by McCrane Foundation, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Dodge Foundation, Westfield Foundation and Discover Jersey Arts. The NJPAC performances are part of the Verizon Passport to Culture: FamilyTime series.

NJPAC is a wheelchair accessible facility and provides assistive services for patrons with disabilities. For more information, call 888-GO-NJPAC.

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