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Does Benny have to be black? 
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Young Hoofer
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Post Does Benny have to be black?
I'm a 20-something caucasian baritenor and was interested in trying out for Benny. Is it crucial that benny be African-American, any reference to his race in the show or anything.


Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:53 pm
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Not at all. Go for him! A white friend of mine just played him this past November, and I know of other productions that have done the same as well. In fact, I'm a white male and may be using "You'll See" for an upcoming audition.

The characters are modern New Yorkers. Nearly any of them could be any race.

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Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:36 pm
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^^Well, given the refrences in the show, and the name, Mimi should probably be hispanic...

But that's really the only one I think.

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Tue Mar 23, 2010 5:34 pm
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Brock07 wrote:
^^Well, given the refrences in the show, and the name, Mimi should probably be hispanic...

But that's really the only one I think.


I agree. My wording was "Nearly any of them could be any race." The other character that comes to mind is Mark, who is Jewish by heritage.

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Tue Mar 23, 2010 8:28 pm
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And yet Mimi is almost always played by a black girl haha. But seriously, it's true. :P

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Tue Mar 23, 2010 8:30 pm
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Tony Winner
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Unfortunately the original casting of a show sets a lot of unofficial precedents in matters like these. Yeah, the only characters in the show whose races and/or ethnic backgrounds are delineated by the libretto are Mark as Jewish and Mimi as Latin-American. But even with those there's a little wiggle room. The actor playing Mark doesn't need to look overtly stereotypically Jewish, and the actress playing Mimi doesn't necessarily HAVE to be Latina. Jman383 pointed out that she's been played by African-Americans. It's more of an aesthetic with her. As long as she has darker skin, she's passable.

Collins, Benny, and Joanne don't HAVE to be African-American but I believe every professional production has cast them so because Martin, Diggs, and Walker all are. Angels tend not to be Anglo-Saxon or European because Heredia is Dominican. Professional productions have been sort of open-ended with this, having Latin-Americans, Lighter-skinned African Americans, and Asian-Americans playing him. Roger and Maureen needn't be white, but have been so because of Pascal and Menzel.

Yes, one of the show's motifs/messages is the value and beauty of diversity, and it would look odd if everybody in the show was white. (This is one of my problems with Rent: School Edition. The schools with the funding to mount a production are likely not to be as diverse as others).
But still I feel sometimes people interpret this idea too strictly, insisting that the actor's ethnic heritage correspond very closely to those of the OBC's, when in several cases it's completely immaterial. Why can't Roger and Maureen be Black? Why can't Collins, Joanne, and Benny be White? You can have diversity without being rigid as far as which characters are specifically which ethnicity.

Also, I'm white, and I wanna play Collins, dammit!


Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:41 am
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A lot of people neglect to point out that Collins was a white Tom Waits-type character in the original script. He was played by a white performance artist, Pat Briggs, in the 1994 NYTW production; the only reason they began trying out black actors for the cast that eventually went to Broadway is that not enough good white talent was showing up. The casting agent knew Jesse Martin, thought the part was up his alley, and brought him in, and the rest is history.

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Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:17 am
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Roger screams "perfect white suburban upbringing" to me. Nothing's ever specifically stated in the script, but that's the vibe I get, and also the one a friend of mine who's played Roger got.

Once again stating my opinion on the specific topic of the thread: GO FOR IT! :D

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Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:07 pm
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I've seen a caucasian Benny and it was perfectly fine. :D

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Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:05 pm
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Any race. I'm sure Mimi has been cast black because there is such a thing as Hispanics of African origin, like Daphne Rubin Vega.

Mark shouldn't incite laughter for the wrong reasons when stating he's Jewish, therefore, he should somewhat fit public perception.

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Sun Apr 18, 2010 1:52 am
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Quique wrote:
Any race. I'm sure Mimi has been cast black because there is such a thing as Hispanics of African origin, like Daphne Rubin Vega.

Mark shouldn't incite laughter for the wrong reasons when stating he's Jewish, therefore, he should somewhat fit public perception.


I agree completely. =D>

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Sun Apr 25, 2010 12:32 pm
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We had an all-caucasion production in Quebec City and I'm pretty sure that no one who didn't know the show went out of the theater saying : "Well, it was a nice show, but Benny should have definitely been played by a black man"

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