‘Rent’ actor reflects on role as production heads to Orpheum

Marc Stewart
Staff Writer

Kaleb Wells and “Rent” go way back. He got to know the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning musical first simply as music when he and his mother would listen to the original cast recording on car rides. Eventually, they went to see a touring production of the show in Boston. Years later, the 24-year old actor is playing troubled musician Roger Davis in the 20th Anniversary Tour of “Rent” that comes to the Orpheum Theater in Memphis next week.
The musical follows a community of artists in New York’s East Village as they struggle to live and follow their dreams in a rock ‘n’ roll reimagining of Puccini’s La Boheme. I had the opportunity to talk with Kaleb about playing Roger, which he says is “a dream come true.”
“Rent” provided a jolt of creative life to musical theater when it premiered in 1996, and provided a frank, emotional take on contemporary issues wrapped in a variety of musical styles ranging from guitar-driven rock to salsa. Kaleb was keenly aware that some of his audience have been fans of the show for years, while some will be encountering it for the first time.
“It’s kind of surprising when people haven’t heard of this show,” he said, “But it’s a privilege to have people have their first experience with the show with us.”
The heart of Roger’s story is the connection he forms with a young dancer named Mimi. Their courtship is a complicated one, largely because of Roger’s illness.
See Sunday's Daily Times Leader for more.