Adam Chanler-Berat, who recently portrayed the pot-smoking boyfriend Henry in "Next to Normal" and Peter Pan in "Peter and the Starcatcher," is playing narrator Mark Cohen in the Off-Broadway revival of "Rent."
How did you get involved with "Rent"?
[Director] Michael Greif and I were working together on "Next to Normal" and he mentioned something in passing to me about playing Mark. But when "Rent" closed, I thought it wasn't in the cards. Then I was doing "Peter and the Starcatcher" at New York Theatre Workshop, the original home of "Rent," and I got a call to audition. And the rest is history.
When did you first discover "Rent"?
I must have been like 10. For me, it was a show that really defined our generation's voice in musical theater. I felt like I was finally being represented. It made me proud to be a performer.
Do you think the show's themes are still relevant?
I think even more so. It's important for all of us to remember that time and what it was like. AIDS is still a horrible disease that ravages the body.
Are so-called "Rentheads" still seeing the show?
Oh, yeah. They're really young - like 15 or 16.
How does this production compare with the original?
None of the text has changed, but we've mounted it in a new and exciting way. There's this new jungle gym of a set for us to play on. We're in different costumes. There's a cool video component.
What's your take on Mark?
I think of him as like the grandfather, the glue of the show. He's looking to establish himself as an independent artistic force and yearns to separate from his family in Westchester and does everything he can to protect the new family he's made for himself.
If you go: "Rent" plays an open run at New World Stages. 340 W. 50th St., 212-947-8844, siteforrentcom.
The original 'Rent': Where are they now?
The now-iconic rock musical "Rent," which closed on Broadway three years ago after a stunning 12-year run, is back in New York and playing Off Broadway at New World Stages in midtown. It will officially open next Thursday.
Director Michael Greif, who also staged the original show, picked a young and unknown cast. It's worth noting that the entire original Broadway cast was also fresh and not-so-famous back in 1996, although many have since gone on to bigger things.
Idina Menzel (Maureen)
Although she is now known to millions of TV viewers thanks to her recurring role on "Glee," Menzel took Broadway by storm in 2003 with her literally high-flying, Tony-winning performance in "Wicked."
Taye Diggs (Benny)
After scoring a lead role in the 1998 film "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," Diggs appeared on numerous TV shows and currently plays Sam Bennett on the "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off "Private Practice." He married Menzel, and they have a son.
Jesse L. Martin (Collins)
Martin played Detective Ed Green for a decade on "Law & Order." He appeared Off-Broadway last summer in "The Merchant of Venice" alongside Al Pacino and is developing a film about Marvin Gaye.
Daphne Rubin-Vega (Mimi)
Rubin-Vega has continued to appear onstage more than any other original cast member. Although she was unable to return for the 2005 film version of "Rent" due to her pregnancy, she has co-starred in such films as "Wild Things" and "Jack Goes Boating."
Anthony Rapp (Mark)
In addition to appearing in films such as "Road Trip" and "A Beautiful Mind," Rapp has stayed true to his "Rent" roots. Along with returning to the show in 2008, Rapp penned "Without You," a memoir of rehearsing "Rent" that he adapted into a one-man show.
Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Angel)
After winning a Tony Award for his ineffable take on the drag queen Angel, Heredia co-starred with Rubin-Vega in the film "Flawless." Although he disappeared for a while, he joined the Broadway cast of "La Cage aux Folles" as Jacob last fall.
Adam Pascal (Roger)
Like Rapp, Pascal also returned to "Rent" in recent years and has released two solo rock albums. He is working on a stage adaptation of "Operation: Mindcrime," a 1988 heavy metal album by Queensrÿche.
Fredi Walker-Browne (Joanne)
She did a stint as Rafiki in "The Lion King," but Walker is now known primarily as a producer, having founded Big Spoon Productions. Like Rubin-Vega, she did not appear in the "Rent" film.