On Sunday, January 27 at 8/7c, the popular, classic musical RENT will be coming to FOX as a live televised musical for the first time ever. Following the likes of The Wiz and Jesus Christ Superstar, RENT: Live will give fans from all over the world the chance to watch the Broadway classic be performed live, right in front of their television screens.
The cast in the 2019 reboot includes: Jordan Fisher as Mark Cohen, Brennin Hunt as Roger Davis, Tinashe as Mimi Marquez, Brandon Victor Dixon as Tom Collins, Drag Race’s Valentina as Angel Dumott Schunard, Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen Johnson, Kiersey Clemons as Joanne Jefferson and for the first time in his career, R&B singer Mario stars in his first musical as Benjamin Coffin III.
We got the opportunity to sit down with Mario and talk to him about how it feels to pop his stage play cherry live in front of the entire world.
For Mario, he wasn’t a really big Broadway fan, so like many non-Broadway enthusiasts, he wasn’t familiar with RENT at first.
“It wasn’t until after my first audition that I actually saw [RENT],” Mario admits. “I’ve been hearing ‘Seasons of Love’ all my life, just in the background, knowing the song but having not really watched the movie.”
However, when the opportunity presented itself for Mario to audition, he took a moment to see the film and found himself identifying with the character Benny.
He says, “Now that I’ve seen the movie and now that I know that I’m playing Benny’s part, I found relation to him, coming from Baltimore, growing up in poverty-stricken areas, leaving when I was 15 years old, and going back a few years later thinking to myself, ‘What can I do to change the circumstances of some of these kids growing up in the city.'”
Mario also discusses how he’s given back to his hometown of Baltimore.
“I started the Do Right Foundation where I was working with the children of substance abused parents because I experienced that,” says Mario. “In that way, I can relate to Benny in the fact that he sees a brighter future for the East Village. His way of going about it is a little harsh. But, I started there and I’ve just been building on the character ever since then.”
Mario admits that before RENT, he never really had aspirations of wanting to get into theater, however, after being asked to audition for the musical “Hair”, the thought eventually crossed his mind. Unfortunately, he never pursued it further but that’s what makes RENT even better. It’s something completely new. As far as whether or not Mario plans to go on Broadway, the singer says that he’d love to do more one-off shows like the live showing of RENT on FOX, but he’s not ready to take on Broadway full time.
“I probably won’t do traveling theater,” he said. “I have a lot of musical aspirations. I’m going on tour after this. I’m putting another project out as well. I’m just going to continue to evolve and hopefully along that path I’ll have more experiences like RENT.”
The tour Mario is referring to is the upcoming Millennium Tour alongside B2K, Pretty Ricky, Chingy and others. The nostalgic R&B tour sold out in several cities, with promoters having to add additional dates. When asked how he feels about being back on stage with some of his old friends, Mario says, “I’ve been so focused on RENT, I don’t know how it feels yet. I’ve literally been in this world. But when I think about it, for me, it’s more exciting for me to get to see the fans. I’m excited about the fans! I’m excited to see how excited they are. It’s a weird time for R&B right now and I think that although R&B is making a comeback right now, this is an exciting moment for R&B fans who remember the Scream Tour. I’m also excited to get back out there and introduce some new music.”
Make sure you tune in to FOX on Sunday, January 27th at 8/7c to watch Mario make his musical debut on RENT.