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Music Director Tim Weil on 25 years of RENT

RENT comes to Broadway San Diego for its final stop on its national tour. It’s hard to believe that the show is celebrating 25 years, and has become a fixture in the musical theatre world the world over. Music Supervisor Tim Weil has been there from the beginning, and he talks about what it’s been like working on this show, working with the national tours, and that iconic RENT sound.

 RENT National Tour

Tim Weil has worked on projects from SHREK THE MUSICAL, to LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL starring Audra McDonald, to theatre cult classic movie “Camp” and he has been a music supervisor, orchestrator, and arranger for shows from stage to screen. More than 25 years ago though, he started a project as the Music Director with Jonathan Larson on RENT and has continued to work on the show throughout the years from Broadway and beyond. For the current national tour, he has served as the Music Supervisor, which as Weil explains has a lot of moving parts.

“It varies from show to show, I’ve done it for a lot of shows and they have different characteristics. But for this one it basically is you fill the music department, choose a music director who is the person who travels with the tour, hire the musicians for the band and then help with the casting process. A by-product of me having done the show for so long and so many times, and because our rehearsal time can be limited, I’m the one that gets to teach the music as well.

It’s a big job! Once the show is up and traveling the supervisor goes out to check up on it and make sure things are running on the right track, help with any issues like recasting, or any fix issues.”

RENT has an iconic sound, one which any theatre fan can recognize from the first few chords. Weil says that even though the music is specifically 90s, there is a lot of older music that serves as its inspiration, and that’s how helps vocalists find the right sound.

“It is straight-up 90s and the great thing is the music takes care of that in the band and in the way the show is orchestrated. The two guitars and the 90s keyboards, that stuff is pretty universal.

The interesting thing is, the thing I have to find I have to edit is the riffing people do and the musical vocabulary they grew up with from the early 2000’s. Jonathan and I both came of age in the 70’s this is why we saw so eye to eye in the very beginning – so we both had a real love of 60s and 70’sR&B. We tended to go old school.”

One note that he finds helps people find the right sound is in Maureen’s performance piece and he has the look to a ’70s and 80s girl group to hear what the song is needed at that moment.

“The performers who sing “Leap of Faith”, I always tell the girls who are singing it to look at The Roches. That’s one very very specific thing you can’t explain you just have to hear it. And invariably they come back from rehearsal and say “got it!” but other than that, the music kind of takes you where you want to go.”

While RENT has become a global phenomenon and has gone from making its debut to becoming a huge part of the theatre industry, Weil says that he doesn’t often have a chance to step back and look at it’s impact as a whole because he is always working on it in some form, but that he is always aware of the impact of those who have been a part of the RENT family as cast and crew.

“RENT has made its way into the LA Times and NY Times crossword puzzles, it is in the canon I believe of the greatest musical theatre pieces ever. I am always in the center of it, so I’m kind of the last one to take the big step back to see what it’s become.

For me, it’s about the work- everyone we cast becomes part of the big, giant beautiful RENT family and they see that they are part of something quite large, quite expansive, and quite historical.”

Tim Weil also is a part of the Jonathan Larson Foundation, which provides grants for upcoming composers and lyricists. As a working professional in the industry who has helped create some iconic moments on stage, he offers some advice to the next generation of artists.

“For writers and composers, the rule is always “write what you know” and “just write.” That was the great thing about Jonathan, he was a writer. He got up and wrote every day; performers perform, writers write.

I learned so much about that from my relationship with Jonathan. He is a writer, he writes, this is what he does, and was such a cool thing to watch and be a part of. The one thing I took from him is whatever you do, do it fully and passionately.”

How To Get Tickets

You can catch RENT playing April 22nd – April 24th at the San Diego Civic Theatre from Broadway San Diego. For ticket and showtime information go to www.broadwaysd.com

Mask mandate – Effective April 1, 2022, masks and vaccinations are strongly recommended.

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