Buffalo Grove resident lands dream role in 'Rent'
What goes around comes around for actress Abby Vombrack of Buffalo Grove.
She vividly remembers traveling into Chicago with her show choir at Stevenson High School to see the smash hit "Rent" performed live. She and her friends then went to see the movie version as soon as it came out.
Now, Vombrack is living the dream. She was cast as her favorite character in the show, Maureen, which singer Idina Menzel created both on Broadway and in the film version.
"Rent" opens its preview performances Thursday, May 19, at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights, and its regular run opens May 25 and runs through July 3.
"This is my first time in 'Rent,'" Vombrack says. "I was consumed with it during high school, and Maureen was the character I felt most connected to. While we definitely aren't the same person, I feel our spirits are aligned."
The show is directed by Lauren Rawitz of Buffalo Grove and local cast members include Bridgid Buckley of Round Lake in the ensemble.
"Rent" centers around a group of artists trying to make it in New York during the height of the AIDS epidemic, and the struggles they face, both professionally and personally. The rock musical won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1995 and four Tony awards in 1996 when it debuted on Broadway.
Vombrack had performed mainly in musicals before she attended high school -- she debuted in "The Music Man" in Buffalo Grove's community theater -- but while at Stevenson she began to take the craft of acting more seriously, she says.
"We'd act dramatic scenes, write monologues, stage and perform musical numbers, improvise and develop new material," Vombrack says. "Once I started studying in the classroom and performing at school, I think my love of theater expanded."
Vombrack pursued that love at Illinois State University, where she performed in multiple productions. Her senior year, she won an award for best performance by an actress for her leading role in "Mother Courage and Her Children." The show advanced to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Michigan, which is funded and supported by the Kennedy Center in New York.
Since graduating in 2014, Vombrack has used her theater education degree to teach youngsters at the Metropolis School of the Performing Arts, as well as at Buffalo Grove's Show Biz Kids' Club and Highland Park High School as a freelance teaching artist.
She also is a professional actress. Now immersed in rehearsals for "Rent," she's excited to bring the show to local Vombrack says, "and choosing to experience it is courageously choosing to open up to a spectrum of emotions, challenging questions or notions, and ultimately being affected."
Her director, Rawitz, agrees.
"I am hoping this production peels back the layers," she says, "and exposes more of the journey Jonathan Larson lived through before he died at too young an age."
Joe Keefe, in his second year as executive director of Metropolis, stops just short of describing the show as a blockbuster.
"This electrifying show and its brilliant cast furthers our efforts to bring the highest-quality entertainment to our burgeoning audience," he says. "Ticket sales are booming."
"Rent"When: May 19-July 3
Where: Metropolis Performing Arts Center, 111 W. Campbell St. in Arlington Heights
Info: (847) 577-2121, or metropolisarts.com