by Marialena Rago
Rent is a Broadway staple and an American theatre classic. But before the cast takes on the iconic music and story, there are a few people in the Broadway community who started out as ensemble members of the hit musical and were a part of the Bohemian company that changed musical theatre.
Leslie Odom, Jr.
Before Hamilton was the show people waited hours in line for, RENT had people sleeping outside to get a coveted seat, and Leslie Odom, Jr. was in the ensemble! Odom made his Broadway debut as Paul, a cop, and others before stepping in as Burr in the 2016 hit musical that won him the Tony Award.
You might have seen him flying around on a magic carpet in Aladdin, but before that, Telly Leung made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of RENT. Leung made such an impression that in 2008 that he went on to play Angel in the final Broadway cast.
Robin de Jesus
Robin de Jesus has been in In The Heights, Wicked and most recently The Boys in the Band, but, he too, made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of RENT. After, he went on to be nominated for a Tony for his work in La Cage aux Folles.
This spring you can see him in Kiss Me, Kate opposite Kelli O'Hara, but in 2008, he was playing Roger in the final cast of RENT. Since then, Chase has been on TV in SMASH, Nashville, and Sharp Objects, to name a few. He has also been nominated for a Best Actor in a Featured Role for The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Before Colin Hanlon was in In Transit and the 2016 revival of Falsettos, he was an ensemble member of RENT! He made his Broadway debut as Gordon, The Man, Mr. Grey, and others. Hanlon was also in the video series Submissions Only.
Norbert Leo Butz
Two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz started his Broadway career in RENT. Butz understudied Roger and went on to play him after Adam Pascal left. He has been in Wicked, Catch Me If You Can, and most recently My Fair Lady. You can also see him on your TV this April in Fosse/Verdon.
Kendra Kassebaum made her Broadway debut as a swing in RENT and went on to the national tour of Wicked. After flying around the country, she went back to Broadway in Wicked to play Glinda. Kassebaum is now back in the sky in the musical Come From Away.
Karen Olivo also made her Broadway debut as a swing in RENT, then she went on to play two of the show’s leads - Mimi Marquez and Maureen Johnson. Olivo is a Tony Award winner for Anita in West Side Story and has been in In the Heights and Hamilton, and this summer, she will be playing Satine in Moulin Rouge.