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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 about..now. 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 
 
 

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Music Tea w/ Cory Wade

Whether he’s singing, acting, working the runway or just being an all around fierce local diva, there isn’t a role that Mr. Cory Wade doesn’t simply own. Best known for placing third on the 20th cycle of America’s Next Top Model, the extraordinary local entertainer has attracted a massive following and is quickly becoming known for his efforts in the LGBT community, as well as for a red-hot Philly fashion sense that’s truly one-of-a-kind and all his own. 

Tomorrow night, Cory will begin his strut into owning another role, this time taking on the part of Angel in the popular Jonathan Larson musical RENT at the Ritz Theatre Company in Oaklyn, New Jersey, which is a role that is near and dear to his own heart for many reasons. Philly Mixtape had the esteemed chance to break some music tea mugs with Cory and ask him why he’s so devoted to Angel, just what he thinks of Adele’s return, and of course, we just had to spill about Ms. Tyra’s final season of Top Model

Show some local music love below to Mr. Cory Wade…you’ll be glad you did. 

PM-Kicking off our little spillage, are you read to get your Rent on, Mr. Cory?  

CW-Yes! We just had our first run through last night. It’s coming together. I’m always very nervous whenever I work on this show because it’s so important to me and to so many people. You know, RENT is very heavy and I want it to be as effective as possible and I’m always just so nervous because I want people to be on the journey with us and I want them to feel it.

PM-Tell everyone a little bit about your RENT character, Angel…

CW-Angel is a gender-fluid street performer that’s living with HIV. Basically, she knows that her time could run out at any moment’s notice, so her response to that is to live each day to the fullest. She’s really the living light of the show and she’s actually inspired me in my own life because on the daily we tend to take the little things for granted and sometimes forget to express gratitude towards the bigger picture. I think Angel is a reminder to us all to cherish each moment and live life to the fullest. Just like the show says, no day but today.  

PM-Why is playing this role so important to you personally?

CW-I actually got to play Angel when I did RENT at the Byham Theatre in Pittsburgh and that was the first time I was ever celebrated for being myself and expressing my femininity on stage. In theatre school, I was pressured up to butch up and that I would never be able to make a career in the performing arts because I was to fem. So, to do this role again that’s sparked my confidence and courage, it’s just really special. For me to revisit this role it really teaches me to be fierce and to just be myself. It’s like I’m revisting my younger self so it’s really cool.

PM-Now, there’s no denying that RENT has certainly made its mark in theatre history. What do you hope people will gain from the show, maybe those coming that maybe have never seen it before? 

CW-RENT has a timeless message that anybody can relate to. I think the biggest thing for someone who doesn’t know the show to walk away with is just that gratitude for life. You know, they ask the question ‘how do you measure your life?’ in the song, “Seasons of Love”. The show really shows you how to be grateful for what you have and how to measure your life in love.

PM-Moving on to break some Tyra tea mugs…how are you feeling now that America’s Next Top Model is saying goodbye in a few weeks? 

CW-Well, as you know, this is the last season of Top Model after 22 cycles! I’m proud to say that the cycle I competed in, 20, was the first to feature all male competitors. It actually boosted the ratings and kept the show alive a lot more than people anticipated and I was honored to have been asked back the next year! This season, they chose not to bring me back and then it got canceled! I’m just kidding! Unfortunately, they didn’t ask me back for this season, but they did bring back a few Top Models from previous cycles–Whitney Thompson, who was their first plus-sized model, as well as Don Benjamin, who was the sexy bi-racial boy from my season. I’m still close with a lot of people who ran production on the show and I still keep in touch with Tyra. I have a great relationship with everyone and I wish nothing but the best for them. I feel so grateful for them having been involved with me to the extent that they have. But I do think it’s time to say goodbye to the show after a very respectable run. I never thought in a million years I would be on America’s Next Top Model and I’ll be forever grateful.

PM-One last sip….how about that new Adele song….

CW-I love it! Everything she does is just so beautiful. I don’t know if it’s the same relationship she’s singing about over and over again, but whatever it is, it’s amazing. I’ll never get tired of her voice. And can we talk about how beautiful she is?!

To check your RENT life and to see Cory on stage starting tomorrow night, go right here

Also, Cory and his band are coming to Philly for a night at Tin Angel! Get your local music truth on right here for more info.