Table Talk w/Coleman Cummings of ‘RENT’

How many ways are you still totally in love and obsessed with Jonathan Larson’s Broadway/life defining rock musical, ‘RENT‘?  

525, 600 ways, perhaps?

Most likely, it’s waaaay more than that. There’s simply no denying that the dearly departed Mr. Larson’s powerful, poignant story about about an incredible group of depleted young artists struggling to create their own stories living in Lower Manhattan’s East Village while looming under the shadow of HIV/AIDS in the late ’90s is still changing the way we think about, well, life in general today.

That’s actually just one of the many, many reasons why we can’t wait for the the 20th anniversary tour of RENT to make its second run this year at the Merriam Theater (go here for whatever is left of those tickets!!) beginning tonight through this Sunday, October 20th

Of course, another reason we all love RENT is for that dear, sweet precious music

Ask yourself…how many times have you sung “Seasons of Love” either in high school choir or feelin’ a little tipsy at a piano bar? Or maybe belted out “Light My Candle” with your bestie so much that it drove your Mom and your cat crazy? Or maybe you wished that you could be as truly fabulous every day as Ms. Angel?

Then let’s also not forget the way that RENT just moves us to be better people, better thinkers, better ponderers in the oh, so small cubicle that is life. Yes, this show is still just as deep…and it seems like we all need it more than ever so that we can keep breaking those pesky stigmas that surround us all the time. 

One fine theater actor who is certainly playing his part (literally) to make that happen is Mr. Coleman Cummings, who’ll be owning our RENT lives as Roger Davis, a once-successful-but-now-struggling musician turned junkie who is now dealing with his newly HIV-positive status. 

Being that Coleman has already tackled deep subject matter for the ages with his portrayal of Gabe in the mental health exploring Broadway standout, Next to Normal (another one you should absolutely go see), he should have no problem reeling us into every song he has to sing and listening to every word he has to say.

Plus, he’s also a really nice guy!! Before Mr. Cummings moves the stage at the Merriam this weekend, he was gracious enough to take a seat at the table, where he smashed mugs about what playing Roger means to him, why we need to focus more on self-confidence away from social media, and most importantly…what’s he being for Halloween? 

You can find all of this out right Let’s take a seat…and get those last few tickets for RENT this weekend while you can before you can’t! 

First up on our little spill, what does playing Roger mean to you personally? To me, playing Roger has been a huge emotional journey. He is such a damaged character. I’ve had to reach into the darkest corners of myself to find connections with him. But it has almost been a therapeutic experience to bring those darker sides of myself out.

Moving on to…this show. Why do you think RENT is just so damn important for everyone to see even decades later?  [This is] a show about the human experience and is certainly still relatable today. It’s a story that connects people from all walks of life going through their own personal challenges. RENT has loss, betrayal, friendship, family, disease and everything in between. Those themes are always going to be a part of the human experience.

Just to spill some good ol’ fashioned music tea, what are some of your favorite records that have changed your perspective on your own entertainment journey? Growing up, I listened to almost exclusively musical theater. I was constantly searching for the latest soundtrack to be released, or searching for other things that were less well known. But Next to Normal was a soundtrack I found in high school. It’s a moving story that had a character that I could sing and relate to. It became a dream role of mine. Right after I graduated from college, I went and auditioned for it. When I was cast, it all became such a full circle moment for me.

Just to keep it real with that traveling life for a moment, what’s maybe the best part of being on a national tour, and what’s maybe one downside? The best part is getting to travel. I have performed in some incredible theaters and I have gotten to go to some amazing cities that I otherwise probably wouldn’t visit. One of the hardest parts is being in a relationship. Finding time to talk and keeping things positive about where we are and when we will see each other has been very difficult for me.

Okay, so what advice would you give to today’s social media heavy world on how to get out there and gain some natural self-confidence? Being a confident actor, what do you think it takes these days? I think it’s so important not to use it as a way to seek validation. That’s the biggest mistake and trap. Being confident online doesn’t transfer to real life. I think the most important thing to remember is everyone is on their own journey and no ones is better or worse just different. You can’t waste your time looking to the side, you have to always look forward and focus on your path. Good things don’t happen overnight, but patience, hard work, dedication and consistency will get the job done and get results. Once you see progress of your hard working paying off, you’ll naturally be more confident! 

So….the whole world wants to know…what are you being for Halloween?I haven’t!! I am so indecisive and do not plan ahead well when it comes to Halloween!

Last mug break…..define the ‘RENT’ experience in one glittery word or phrase…. Give in to love, or live in fear!


For much, much more with the 20th anniversary touring cast of RENT, check all of this out. 
For many more fall local and legendary entertainment shenanigans with Philly Mixtape, check all of this and this out. 
RENT media clips provided by Kimmel Center 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *