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... Manley Pope 
(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 )
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