+ Interviews +
... Manley Pope
THE NORTHEASTERN NEWS ONLINE (This story originally appeared 5/7/97 on page 13.)
New cast member pays his 'Rent' News Staff by Kimberly Roots
What do you do if, as the title song from "Rent" says, "the rising, sweeping winds of change" blow through your hit show and you're left at the midpoint of a seven-month run with no leading man?
If you're the producers of the "Rent" national touring company, you find another young hopeful and pray he can hold his own in the revolutionary musical playing at the Shubert Theatre.
Enter Manley Pope. The 26-year-old Wilmington, N.C.-native took over the part of Roger in March when Sean Keller was let go due to vocal problems.
Despite having to learn the music and his lines, the Eastern Carolina University grad had the added task of carving a niche for himself in a cast where everyone else had worked together for months.
"It was just about getting in sync with what everyone else was doing," said Pope in a recent phone interview. "There's a delicate balance of doing your own thing and being part of the group. The good thing about 'Rent' is that they let you bring a lot of yourself to the role."
In fact, individuality is inherent in the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical. Written by Jonathan Larson before his death in 1996, "Rent" is the story of a group of artists living the bohemian lifestyle in New York City.
As Roger, Pope plays an HIV-positive ex-drug addict trying to write one meaningful song before he dies. It's a far cry from his portrayal of rich kid Devon Whitelaw in UPN's "Sweet Valley High," but it comes as a natural extension of Pope's two true loves: theater and music.
"I did some modeling, and then I did 'The Exorcist III'," he said. "That got me into acting. I auditioned in L.A. I was just finished with "Sweet Valley High," and they needed someone to take Sean's place.
"'Rent' is actually the first musical I've ever done," added Pope, whose favorite scene to perform is Act II's "Goodbye Love."
"You have to get a lot more rest than normal, but everyone's really cool. It's great," he said.
Pope's first encounter with a slightly uncool fact of stage life came in March, when the cast performed at a WBOS-sponsored music festival at South Station.
"It was nuts. Basically, we came off stage and we didn't expect it," he said of the over-enthusiastic throng of "Rent" fans who rushed the performers after the concert. "The security people really didn't expect it, either. It gets a little weird when there are 500 of them and only one of you. When there are 20 people standing really very close to you, you get a little claustrophobic.
"The majority of people are there to have a good time, and that's good to see," he added. "But, with the world the way it is, you can never be too sure."
The original cast in New York continues to play to sell-out crowds, as does the national touring company in its last weeks here in Boston. Tickets are already sold out for the first few weeks of the tour's next stop in St. Paul, Minn.
Pope attributes the show's popularity to its treatment of such timeless issues as love, loss and survival.
"It's just so unusual; people haven't seen anything like this ever," he said. "I hope [in 20 years] that we can look back on it as a period piece, as the way life was before we had the cure for AIDS. I hope at that point that we've gotten past a lot of the roadblocks that are discussed in 'Rent'."
In the meantime, though, Pope will keep on singing his "One Song/Glory" to packed houses across the United States. "Rent" will open in St. Paul June 1 and will eventually wind its way to Chicago in the fall.
( taken from www.nunews.neu.edu )