The Cast of “Rent” Shares How the Musical Celebrates Queerness and Breaks Gender Boundaries

Rent 9 Works Theatrical 1

Photo / 9 Works Theatrical

Rent may have premiered in the ’90s, but its themes of poverty, the loss of love, the discovery of romance, and the pursuit of their dreams in the city continue to resonate with audiences today. This timeless story is being staged again in Manila by 9 Works Theatrical after they first showed it in 2010. It’s a special production for the company, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.

One of the things that make the musical a classic is how it celebrates its queer characters, like Angel Dumott Schunard, Tom Collins, Maureen Johnson, and Joanne Jefferson. At the time, this was considered a milestone for queer representation.


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“When Rent came out, it was very taboo to even have anything related to LGBT at the forefront of any material. That allowed for some shock value for the viewers watching at that time. Now that the world is more open for discussion and there are things we are more privy to now, it’s allowed us to view the material with modern eyes. What we see are love stories instead of just queer couples or token gay characters. These are people like everybody else,” said Justine Peña, who plays Maureen.

Lance Reblando, a trans woman, recalled the audition process, which specifically called for transgender and gay actors to play Angel.

“‘Yung younger queer self ko, na-affirm na ‘pwede pala ‘yun.’ Akala ko kasi dati, si Angel, gay person. Na-open ‘yung avenue na, ‘Alam mo, pwedeng trans woman si Angel.’ Hindi lang na-discuss before kasi hindi pa ganon naga-grasp ng tao.”


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She alternates the role with Adrian Lindayag. According to him, “I first encountered Rent in 2008. I saw the movie version on HBO, and as a 13-year-old queer questioning kid, it was very empowering for me to see because a queer person was in the middle of the story tapos she was celebrated. Positive ‘yung impact niya sa akin kasi I longed for that.”

Given the different gender identities of Reblando and Lindayag, 9 Works Theatrical is careful with pronouns. Markki Stroem, who plays Angel’s partner, Tom, said, “As Collins, we switch the pronouns when it’s Lance as Angel. When it’s Adrian, we use ‘he.'”

This switch also applies to how he approaches his role. He said, “I want to incorporate a little bit of femininity, just to add a little bit of spice. Just as Maureen and Joanne can be two femmes together, why can’t we also be two femmes?”


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Completing the cast are Anthony Rosaldo as Roger Davis, Reb Atadero and Ian Pangilinan as Mark Cohen, Thea Astley and Molly Langley as Mimi Marquez, Garret Bolden as Tom Collins, Jasmine Fitzgerald as Maureen Johnson, Mica Fajardo and Fay Castro as Joanne Jefferson, Guji Lorenzana as Benjamin “Benny” Coffin III (in certain performances), and Jordan Andrews, Chesko Rodriguez, Vyen Villanueva, Abi Sulit, Paul Valdez, Misha Fabian, and Kai Banson as Gordon, Steve, Paul, Pam, Ally, Sue of the Life Support.

Robbie Guevara directs this production, and Daniel Bartolome joins him as musical director, Mio Infante as scenographer, PJ Rebullida as choreographer, Shakira Villa-Symes as lighting designer, Joee Mejias as video designer, Bam Tiongson as sound designer, Dong Calingacion as technical director, Elliza Aurelio as FOH, hair and makeup head, Cathy Azanza-Dy as acting coach, Lionel Guico as vocal coach, and JV Rabano as photographer.

Rent will be showing from April 19 to June 1, 2024, at 3 PM and 8 PM on Saturdays and Sundays and 8 PM on Fridays. The show is staged at the CPR Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati. Tickets are now available via

For partnerships and ticket or show buying inquiries, you may reach 9 Works Theatrical via, 7586 7105, or 0917 554 5560.

You may follow them on Facebook and YouTube (@9WorksTheatrical) and Twitter, Instagram & TikTok (@9WTonline) for updates.

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