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A new lease on life for Theo Ubique’s ‘Rent’

Courtney Jones, Parker Guidry, Ron King, Aubrey McGrath, Danielle Davis, Charles Benson, Ella Pennington, Deanalis Resto, Matt Edmonds, Nicole Michelle Haskins in "Rent" at Theo Ubique| PHOTO BY ADAM VENESS

Call it a modern-day David and Goliath story, or just a happy ending made to order for a terrific Chicago storefront theater.

The good news is this: After being told that the planned four-week extension for Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre’s widely acclaimed production of “Rent” would not be permitted because of a planned national tour of the show, the order was rescinded by Music Theatre International (MTI), the musical licensing agency. Chalk it up to a whole lot of online activism, and then some crucial personal intervention.

The show will be able to extend only through May 15 rather than May 29, as first announced, because some of the artists made alternative plans after the extension was canceled. But the intimate Theo Unique theater, which seats fewer than 60 and is the quintessence of the “Rent” aesthetic (Jonathan Larson’s musical is the tale of struggling artists in New York’s East Village in the 1990s), can chalk this up as a significant triumph.

REVIEW: ‘Rent’ at Theo Ubique

How did the reversal happen?

First came a good deal of online outrage by the Chicago theater community. This caught the attention of Lucas McMahon, an employee of “Rent’s” ranking rights holder, Kevin McCullom. McMahon had been a classmate of “Rent” director Scott Weinstein when the two attended Northwestern University. And when he brought the matter to his boss’ attention, McCollum reached out directly to Theo Ubique’s artistic director, Fred Anzevino, and offered to grant the extension. He also called Drew Cohen, president of MTI, to authorize the additional performances.

Anzevino said he was “thrilled and grateful to McCollum, McMahon and Cohen for their kindness in making the extension possible.”

For tickets to “Rent,” call (800) 595-4849 or visit www.theo-u.org.