No Day But Today

Small Town Theatrics to stage Rent

Photo by Ann Gill IN 1996, ONE of the greatest musicals of all time took opened in an Off-Broadway theatre and it wasn't long before the show expanded into a larger venue to accommodate audiences who were flocking to see Rent. In it’s 25th Anniversary year, Small Town Theatrics is set to present the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning musical with show’s this weekend in the Coal City Performing Arts Center. The cast is comprised of [from left, kneeling] Bryce Henderson, Eli Fritz, Hope Connelly, Chloe Peacock and Angel Loza. Stading in row two are Dana Eisenach, Wyatt Onsen, TJ Sforza, Praise Oramika, Trevor Shingler, Riley Nevin, Hailey Rose Kasky, Grace Preboy, Adeline Connor, Zoe Smith and Kenzie Puckett. Row three: Brenden McCray, Albert Sterner, Joey Fatigante, Alex Duffy and Matt Fritz.

Photo by Ann Gill SUPPORT GROUP—TREVOR SHINGLER and TJ SFORZA will be back on stage this weekend in Small Town Theatrics production of the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning musical Rent. Shingler takes the stage as Mark, a filmmaker and Sforza [right] plays the role of Paul, the counselor of a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS. The musical will take the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, July 23 and Saturday, July 24 and Sunday, July 25 at 2 p.m. in the Coal City Performing Arts Center, 655 W. Division St., Coal City. Advanced tickets available at

Ann Gill

In the late 1980s a young composer by the name of Jonathan Larson began a collaboration on what would become one of the greatest musicals of all time.

While waiting tables to support himself, Larson was hard at work on a musical—a rock opera—he would title Rent. Inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera La Boheme, Larson took motivation from his own surroundings setting the story in New York City’s East Village—Alphabet City.

Homelessness, poverty and oppression play a role in the story that features a musician, a filmmaker, an exotic dancer, performance artist, professor, lawyer, drag queen and a landlord living under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. Eight individuals with one thing in common—their friendship.

Roughly four years after Larson began working on Rent, the musical was workshopped and tweaked and it officially opened off-Broadway in January 1996, moving to Broadway just a couple of months later out of a need for a larger space to accommodate audiences who were flocking to the theater to see Larson’s show. Unfortunately, Larson himself did not witness the impact of his work, as he died unexpectedly from an aortic dissection on Jan. 25, 1996, the day after the cast had its final Off-Broadway dress rehearsal.

“Everyone that has ever loved this show knows how important it was to him and how his tragic/sudden death prohibited him from seeing it completely staged,” noted Wyatt Onsen, who is taking the stage in Small Town Theatrics upcoming production of the award-winning musical.

Onsen, of Coal City, is one of 21 actors and actresses who will take the stage this weekend—July 23-25—to tell the story that was awarded the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as the Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

Awards and nominations rained down on its cast including Adam Pascal, who as a guest of Coal City High School’s Theatre Department in 2019, performed on the stage that this weekend’s show will be presented.

Small Town Theatrics, the Coal City-based theatre company established in 2009 by Jack Micetich, produced the musical in 2014 with a slightly larger cast. The production was the company’s fifth show and it was greeted warmly by the community.

Although many theaters remain dark awaiting an opening later this year, Small Town’s creative team was determined to provide an creative outlet for performers—some who had not stepped on a stage in 18 months or longer.

Rent has always been a favorite of the company, and although there was a bit of hesitation in re-staging the show after seven years, it proved to be the right for a time when theatre is just starting to make its return.

As the song states, “No Day But Today.”

And, this also happens to be the musical’s 25th Anniversary year and what better way to celebrate than to share the story Larson so masterfully crafted. The musical is one that evokes emotion and insight, one that focuses on love and friendship and the fragility of life.

“This is a story that needs to be shared—a story about life, love and true friendship,” said Micetich, who’s vision for the company was to provide individuals in the area with an opportunity to showcase their talents, while exposing them to the diversity of the performing arts, thus enhancing their quality of life and that of those who some to see them perform.

In 12 seasons, Small Town has provided that opportunity to 200-plus cast and crew members, individuals who come from across northern Illinois to perform. This year’s cast includes individuals from Coal City, Braidwood, Braceville, Morris, Minooka, Shorewood, Yorkville, Lockport, and Libertyville.

“Small Town certainly has grown over the years and it’s been a pleasure to meet and work with such talented and dedicated performers,” said Micetich, who was a freshman in college when he started the all volunteer, non-profit theatre.

This year’s production includes five individuals who were part of an Illinois Theatre Festival All-State production, nominees and winners of Broadway in Chicago’s Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards and multiple individuals who are currently seeking degrees in theatre and dance.

“We have a very talented and dedicated cast, who have put together a remarkable show in four weeks—roughly 1,440 minutes of the 525,600 minutes we are given in a year,” Micetich noted.

Local cast members include Riley Nevin, Onsen, Adeline Connor, Matt Fritz, Eli Fritz, Joey Fatigante, Hope Connelly, Zoe Smith and Chloe Peacock, all of Coal City; TJ Sforza, of Braidwood; Dana Eisenach, of Braceville; Alex Duffy, Kenzie Puckett and Angel Loza, of Morris, Hailey Kaskey, Grace Preboy and Bryce Henderson, from the Minooka/Shorewood area. Additional cast members include Trevor Shingler, Praise Oranika, Albert Sterner and Brendon McCray.

Small Town’s production of Rent opens at 7 p.m., Friday, July 23 and continues with shows at 7 p.m, Saturday, July 24 and Sunday, July 25 at 2 p.m. in the Coal City Performing Arts Center [inside Coal City High School], 655 W. Division St., Coal City.

Reserved seat tickets can be purchased in advance at Tickets will also be available at the door beginning 45 minutes prior to each scheduled performance. Tickets are $10 per person.

Rent is a show for mature audiences.