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Table Talk w/Marcus John of ‘RENT’

So, there’s this Tony Award owning, life changing legendary Broadway extravaganza called RENT...anyone ever hear of it?

Of course…the entire universe has as the dearly departed Jonathan Larson‘s rock musical about of a group of depleted young artists struggling to survive and create a life in Lower Manhattan’s East Village under the shadow of HIV/AIDS isn’t just one of the most iconic theater events that ever took over The Great White Way, but the fact that every single show for the 20th anniversary national tour takeover at the Merriam Theater this week has been completely sold out for months now..

……so, yeah, we’re all aware and more than ready for a RENT Philly takeover.

Just on a little side note…..for those of you who may not have been able to grab those tickets for this week’s round of shows, there’s some good news…it’s coming back to the Merriam this October 8th-10th and there’s still tickets left!! So, you should absolutely head to the Kimmel Center’s website and sing it out for those seats…right now. 

But wait there’s more…….so, you really, really want to revel in this legendary show and kick it with this incredible touring cast this week, right? Well, it just so happens that..you can. After you’ve picked your “Seasons of Love” lovin’ self up off of the floor, make those plans now as the incredibly talented cast—including Benny aka University of the Arts graduate Marcus John, whom you’ll delightfully get to know in just a second–will be taking part in Cabaret for a Cause at the Arts Bank Theatre at the University of Arts this Thursday night, March 7th!

Not only will you be able to revel in all of these fine actors and actresses’ talents and then some, but your ticket will get you in a raffle to win a pair of tickets to the closing night of the show this Sunday, March 10th. Also, being that these crazily talented kids are all about the “Love,” all proceeds will be donated to the incredible David Jenkins Memorial Scholarship Fund, which you can learn more about by clicking right here.

Okay, so putting the well deserved Philly spotlight back on Mr. Marcus John. Not only has he been simply crushing it with this esteemed production in the role of Benny (he’s not so bad, right?) but all-in-all, he’s just a really good guy serving out all kinds of chill, professional vibes that you should absolutely get to know…right now. 

Kicking things off at the table, and I personally thank you for taking time out of your bonkers touring schedule to chat, you and the cast have certainly been made aware that the Philly engagements of RENT this week have been sold out for quite some time! Does that add any added pressure on the cast at all? Maybe just a little?? The shows sell out quite frequently, especially in the bigger cities that we hit up. It’s really the legacy of RENT selling the tickets, we just do our thing regardless! Whether in the big cities or in a small town, we strive to give that same great performance to everybody. 

What does it mean to you personally to be a part of Jonathan Larson’s Broadway legacy? It all just definitely hits you when the show starts and when you see the crowd packing in. Having that many people [each night], it usually means that we’re going to have a responsive audience. It’s huge just to be part of something that’s so iconic and bigger than yourself. It’s just an exciting, exciting feeling just to be a part of this! 

Have you or the cast had a chance to meet any of the original Broadway cast? Actually, we have Not too long ago we met Rodney Hicks who was in the original run [as Benjamin Coffin III]. We’ve also gotten the chance to meet Jonathan Larson‘s Dad as well. 

Oh, yeah? What was that meeting like? He was really cool. He’s still good friends with our music supervisor, so anytime we’re in the area he tries to come and say hi. I’ve also spoken to Taye Diggs over the phone once, he played the original Benny (in the ’05 film version), so getting a chance to chat with him was really, really cool. 

Let’s spill some tea about those famed RENT audiences. Do you guys feel different vibes from different audiences being that at times this a heavy, heavy show? It’s definitely different. Sometimes we’re in parts of the country that don’t necessarily agree with the themes of the show, [those audiences] can be a bit more reserved. But there’s other cities where they know [the show] and sing along and get right into it. It’s a little bit of a crap shoot what kind of audience you’re going to get, but it’s mainly positive all the way no matter where we are. 

As someone who’s been doing your professional thing for quite some time now, do you ever feel nerves take over before a show..especially with RENT? Nerves aren’t really a thing anymore, honestly. As far as touring and performing, I’m going on about six years professionally and two years with this show, so it’s not so much nerves, but more focusing your energy. You know when you do something 200 plus times over the course of a year or two, you’re less worried about being nervous or whether if it’s going to go right because you know exactly what’s going to happen. You also want to make sure that regardless of what’s going on in your personal life, you can still give your best show. Just focus on being in the moment! 

From one artist to another, I’m sure you can agree that when personal mistakes are made, it takes a toll personally.. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. But it’s basically up to you to get over it. Mistakes will drive you crazy, but nobody cares! Even if they do, each audience will be a brand new batch of people who won’t know anything about it. You just can’t carry self criticisms with you. 

Closing out our spill, I just want to go to Lady Gaga’s Oscar acceptance speech about keeping it all going and being brave. Have there been any times in your career that you truly had to dig deep to find that strength to keep it moving? It happens non-stop because in our career, you’re constantly looking for the next job, constantly auditioning, which can lead to always being told no. So, you never really “make it” because no matter how many times you do a big show or tour, everything has to end. I guess I feel brave every time I go into an audition room or hear back right away…like this show. I actually didn’t hear back after the audition for a year. But it came around and they wanted me to audition again, I had to check with myself if I was ready to go through the rejection again if it’s happens…how can I get confident again and not harp on that, so it’s been a little bit of a journey and the second time around paid off! 

For much more with Marcus John and the exceptional 20th anniversary touring cast of RENT, you should absolutely check this out..now. 

Are you a local or legendary entertainer who’s slaying your craft and want the whole wide world to pay attention? Well, please don’t be shy (there are never any Miranda Priestly‘s here) and slay it up with Philly Mixtape right here and here and let’s have everybody take a seat to you and your talents! 

Marcus John cover photo courtesy of Broadway World