Westwood Collegiate to perform Rent: School Edition

Westwood Senior Musical Theatre Troupe will host four showings of the musical from Dec. 7 to 10 at 7 p.m.


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This article was published 23/11/2022 (191 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ten years. One hundred and twenty months. Three thousand six hundred fifty days. That’s how you measure the Westwood Collegiate theatre program’s quest to produce Rent.

The Westwood Senior Musical Theatre Troupe has been rehearsing its own version of the award-winning production, Rent: School Edition, without shying away from its challenging subjects like love, AIDS, death and poverty.

Brian Toms, the head of Westwood Collegiate’s arts department, explained that many factors needed to align put on this operetta. For one, the cast needed to be diverse enough to fill the roles, as was the case with this group of Grade 11 and 12 students.

Photo by Katlyn Streilein

The Westwood Senior Musical Theatre Troupe will host four showings of Rent: School Edition from Dec. 7 to 10 at 7 p.m.

Rachel Tarrant plays Maureen Johnson, an activist for unhoused people. Tarrant, a Grade 11 student, explained that the cast had a two-hour discussion about the AIDS crisis and the context behind the music before picking up their scripts.

Grade 12 student Jillian Devries is Roger Davis, a retired rockstar trying to re-enter the industry. Devries said understanding the play’s history helped the actors achieve the right mindset.

Tori Brears, the Grade 11 student who plays lawyer Joanne Jefferson, said getting into character has been an emotional process.

“It’s a very impactful musical,” Brears said. “It’s inspiring to learn about and get to be these types of people … I’m so appreciative I get to be a part of it.”

The students recognize the musical’s mature subject matter and tackle it with grace and a sense of responsibility. Rent: School Edition dropped a song from the original score and changed some lyrics in consideration of the age of its performers and audience members, explained Heather Neufeld, Westwood Collegiate’s music director.

“It still has the grittiness,” Toms added. “Especially in high school, I think a lot of the time musical theatre is seen as being this very sparkly, Disney, happily-ever-after thing, but there are musicals like Rent that look at the opposite side of life.”

The musical’s edgy content is reflected in the set design, Toms explained. Like the original, Rent: School Edition is set in a grungy ‘90s New York streetscape. Students have been transforming the stage to include a brick facade, aged metal and a complement of vintage furniture.

Photo by Katlyn Streilein

The Dec. 9 and 10 showings of Rent: School Edition will feature a special alumni performance.

“They’re actually trying to make things uglier, which is, I think, a good skill in stage design. Aging is a huge, huge thing,” Toms said.

Rent: School Edition is a joint effort between the theatre troupe and students and staff from a number of different departments.

“This is the most elaborate set I’ve seen in my four years at Westwood,” Devries said.

Mia Fletcher, a Grade 11 student plays Mimi Marquez, an exotic dancer. Coming from a background in theatre, Fletcher noted how much creative freedom the production allowed for.

“You get to be a part of all of it,” Fletcher said. “It gives you more of an appreciation for the art of musical theatre.”

Grade 11 student Vincent Cochrane plays Mark Cohen, an aspiring filmmaker and bohemian. Cochrane said the musical, which has a runtime of about two hours, has a lot of moving parts.

“You really have to know where you have to be and when,” Cochrane said.

Photo by Katlyn Streilein

Rent: School Edition has a runtime of 120 minutes, plus a half-hour intermission.

The troupe will perform four showings of Rent: School Edition at Westwood Collegiate (360 Rouge Rd.) between Dec. 7 and 10 at 7 p.m. The Dec. 9 and 10 shows will feature a special alumni performance. Nearly two dozen past students — some who graduated as far back as 2008 — will accompany the troupe for a grand finale.

“A bunch of people jumped at the chance, which was really special,” Toms said.

All are welcome to attend. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at

Katlyn Streilein

Katlyn Streilein
Community Journalist

Katlyn Streilein was a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review.

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