AT THE BASIE: THIS SPACE FOR ‘RENT’

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Billy Piscopo rehearses “La Vie Boheme” in the Phoenix Productions staging of RENT, opening this weekend at the Count Basie Theatre. (Photos courtesy of Phoenix Productions)

By TOM CHESEK

It’s a show that’s described by the director as iconic and beloved; one whose “fierce honesty” and “lack of artifice” has made it a genuine favorite of a whole generation of stage performers.

It won a Best Musical Tony and a Pulitzer Prize; ran for a dozen years on Broadway; has single-handedly been credited with reinventing the modern American musical — and has spawned a legion of followers who’ve been branded everything from “the most passionate” to “the most annoying” of fanbases.

When Rent comes to Red Bank this Friday night for its first-ever staging by the borough-based Phoenix Productions, one might think that it’d be a ready-made coup for the Count Basie Theatre‘s resident nonprofit theatrical troupe — a slam-dunk “Phoe-nomenon” with a built-in audience.

Instead, as Phoenix artistic director Tom Frascatore points out, it’s “not at all a safe bet for us. In fact, it’s a bit of a dice roll.”

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