This month, URP’s staging of Broadway musical Rent at Centennial Theatre will mark the first time the company has produced a mainstage show in seven years.
Since 1995, URP (formerly Uncle Randy Productions) has produced 23 full-scale musicals in North Vancouver, which served as a breeding ground for young, talented theatre artists, and allowed local audiences to enjoy a variety of big name musicals on home turf. All of that came to an abrupt end in 2009, after URP’s production of High School Musical 2.
Why was this? Because presenting musical theatre is expensive. There are the costs of costumes, lights, sets, props, musicians, production crew, promotions and copyright licences, as well as the hefty theatre rentals. Even when a show sells most of its tickets, it can usually only barely cover the expense of putting it on in the first place.
“At a certain point we could no longer sustain the financial losses,” says Rent’s director, Richard Berg. “So we decided to take a break and lick our wounds.”
URP continued to stay in business as a special events production company, putting on weddings, fundraisers, festivals and other types of events. The company also kept putting on small-scale productions of Cats and Once on this Island. But after a while, Berg and his team once again felt the urge to return to the world of mainstage theatre.
“We realized that we really missed theatre. We missed it as a creative outlet,” notes Berg. “So we took some time to look for ways to make it financially viable and we came up with a plan.”
Part of URP’s new strategy is to run its production of Rent for a shorter time period than previous musicals. By cutting Rent’s run to under one week, the company hopes to pack its audiences into the theatre while saving money on theatre rental fees.
“Rent has been a show on my ‘I wish I could do’ list for a very long time,” admits Berg. “We did look at a few other shows that might have worked, but in the end Rent was definitely the frontrunner. We could also tie it in with the fact that this year is the 20th anniversary of the musical.”
Another motivating factor for Berg and his team is that the future of producing mainstage musicals is still up in the air. As Berg explains, “The fact that we’re not sure whether we’ll continue doing lots of shows or whether we’re just coming back for this one, made Rent a strong choice for us.”
Because if you only have one potential opportunity to do a show, why not do one you’ve always wanted to do? After all, the lyrics from Rent remind us there’s “no day but today.”
Where: Centennial Theatre – 2300 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver
When: Tuesday, November 15 to Sunday, November 20
Tickets: Visit the Centennial Theatre website; $28-$44