Rider student cast in leading role in 2018-19 'Rent' tour
Senior Javon King never took a formal dance or voice class prior to enrolling as a musical theatre major at Rider. Now, he's belting out solos and performing intricate choreography — all while dressed in Santa drag and heels.
King landed the role of Angel Dumott Schunard in the 2018-19 international tour of the Tony Award-winning rock musical Rent.
"I’m kind of late to the whole musical theater thing, but I guess you could say it’s working out for me," he says.
King spent a month in rehearsals before stepping on stage in his first performance in Pensacola, Florida in May. Throughout the tour, he will visit dozens of cities throughout the U.S. and Asia with the tour officially ending in July 2019. Aside from some sore feet, King is enjoying every minute of preparation.
"It’s a long haul, but I’m so excited," he says. "It’s everything I could imagine and more."
King first learned about the Rent tour while he was auditioning for the Kinky Boots national tour. Though he did not book that gig, the same company was also casting Rent and encouraged him to audition for the role of Angel. After a week's worth of dancing, singing and acting callbacks, he got the part and was one of the first to be cast.
King's character, Angel, is one of the focal aspects of Rent's storyline. He is a street drummer who frequently dresses in drag and is afflicted with AIDS. His generosity and enjoyment of life personifies Rent's message: to live life to the fullest because no day but today is guaranteed. While researching his character, King tried to discover ways he could relate to Angel and his storyline.
"It’s very touching to me as someone who is a homosexual," he says. "The AIDS epidemic was something that took a lot of people from us and still affects the community today. Being able to tell that story and see Angel go through this journey is meaningful."
Not the typical theater kid, the Union, New Jersey, native spent most of his childhood playing football and running track. He once aspired to be an athletic trainer or work in criminal justice before participating in his first musical during his freshman year of high school. It wasn't until the end of his junior year that he decided to pursue musical theater as a career.
"I was just in the shows in high school," he says. "I was considered a dancer, but I never really took classes. I picked up choreography extremely well and I’m very flexible, which helped. I just didn’t have the technique, but I’ve learned that over the course of being at Rider with my ballet, tap and jazz classes."
At Rider, King has performed in four shows. He held ensemble roles in The Last Days of Pompeii, White Christmas and Of Thee I Sing and portrayed Papa Ge, the demon of death, in last spring's Once on This Island.
To complete the tour, King is taking a year off from school with the support of his professors in the Department of Theatre and Dance. In the past few years, two musical theatre alumni have taken time away from Rider to perform in national tours. Carolina Sanchez '13 played Rosalia and was the understudy for Maria in West Side Story and Milika Griffiths ’17 was an ensemble member in Ragtime. Technically a first-semester senior, King will return to Rider to finish his degree in spring 2019.