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Well-known musicians join community cast in 'Rent'

Submitted photo
Joel Burke, left, and Nick Hamlyn are seen during the dress rehearsal of "Rent" by the Off-Broadway Players, which opens tonight at the Arts and Culture Centre in Corner Brook.
Submitted photo Joel Burke, left, and Nick Hamlyn are seen during the dress rehearsal of

Allison Crowe and Nick Hamlyn have been making a living as performers and music teachers for years. Both well-known to Corner Brook audiences, their love of music has led to volunteering with community theatre.

The Off-Broadway Players theatre company is bringing the Pulitzer Prize winning musical “Rent” to the stage at the Arts and Culture Centre in Corner Brook today to Saturday.

Crowe, who plays Maureen in the musical, first saw the show in Vancouver in the late 1990s.

“I loved the music," she said. "I loved the stories. I loved the message behind it. It’s just fabulous.”

Loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Boheme,” “Rent” is one of Broadway’s longest-running musicals and has been on stage for over a decade.

Created by Jonathan Larson, the musical that tells the story of a group of friends in New York’s East Village in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Several of the struggling young artists have HIV/AIDS and are dealing with other demons in their lives.

Crowe is usually on tour this time of year. However, the Nanaimo, B.C., native decided to stay closer to home this year, which opened up an opportunity for her to audition for the role of Maureen — a passionate, performance artist.

“She loves beyond any gender boundaries. She’s just a lot of fun ... I can identify with her so much,” Crowe said.

This is Crowe’s first performance with the Off-Broadway Players.

The theatre company has been preparing for the rock opera for the past two months, she said.

“We have all gelled and we care for each other for real. Everyone is so supportive of each other,” she said.

Nick Hamlyn, best known for Nick Hamlyn and the Mayhem and a number of other local bands, plays a young musician named Roger who recently found out he was HIV-positive. Roger is also a recovering drug addict.

For Hamlyn, the main message from the musical is that, while you can’t control everything that happens to you in life, you can find beauty in what you have and joy in what comes your way.

There is sadness and loss in the musical, he said, yet it’s not about sadness and loss.

“It’s about the people that survive and how you keep moving on,” he said. “Even though there’s this darkness in the world, there’s always still some light. It’s important to focus on that,” Hamlyn said.

“Rent” is also Hamlyn’s first performance with the Off-Broadway Players.

He had many accolades for all involved with the theatre troupe and says the show is one of the best things he’s done thus far.

“I’ve never met more welcoming people,” he said.

This the first time directing a musical for Sarah Thompson, originally from Grand Falls-Windsor.

She’s been a fan of “Rent” since she first saw the musical in her teens and is delighted with how the cast and crew have come together for the production.

“The show is about found family, about people coming together and bonding and making family from their friends,” Thompson said. "And I feel like the entire company from this show has done the same thing.”

Thompson said Hamlyn initially auditioned for a different role in the musical. However, she said, she knew instinctively that he should be Roger.

“Nick has a voice designed to sing rock music, bringing the true growl that you would expect from that era of rock music and a beautiful range ... He has brought a lot of energy and a lot of positivity into the part of Roger,” she said.

Thompson describes Crowe as an outgoing performance artist and an activist in many ways.

“Alison is a joy to listen to on anything, but her range and ability to go from full on rock to quiet ballad is spectacular,” Thompson said.

Thompson said “Rent” is a show not to be missed. She said it is appropriate for an adult audience or teenagers (with parental consent).

Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at

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