Philly native Shafiq Hicks gives the scoop on his leading role in “Rent”

Shafiq Hicks
Catch Shafiq Hicks onstage this weekend as Tom Collins PHOTO: Amy Boyle Photography

You don’t have to be a theater buff to have heard of the smash-hit musical “Rent,” or to have listened to of the intoxicatingly catchy tunes the show features (cue the “Seasons of Love” lyrics popping into your head as you read this.)

Philly native Shafiq Hicks gives the scoop on his leading role in “Rent”

This weekend “Rent” is hitting the stage in Philly and all of the colorful characters, intense storylines, show-stopping tunes and incredible artistry is coming to the City of Brotherly love with it. Shafiq Hicks, who plays Tom Collins in the production was born and raised in Philadelphia and the talented actor/musician is more than prepared to bring the incredibly compelling character to life onstage for his hometown.Hicks sat down with Metro to give us the scoop on what to expect at the show this weekend.

You grew up in Philadelphia, how did you break into the theater scene?

From a really young age, I think I might have been two, my Grandmother started training me vocally. I started singing around the city, and then eventually I went to the Philadelphia High School for the Creative & Performing Arts where I majored in vocal music. That’s where I really honed in on the vocal craft and got pushed. I was in my first musical there and I fell in love with it— so I think I definitely got the theater bug at CAPA, but I’ve had the vocal bug since birth.

Shafiq Hicks

Can you tell me about your character, Tom Collins?

Tom Collins is a smooth college professor that got expelled from MIT for his theory of actual reality, and he’s returned home to New York City to see his former roommates, Roger and Mark and to also work at NYU. When home, he meets this charismatic firecracker of a human being, Angel, and he’s immediately smitten with him. Angel opens Collins up to a world of pure unadulterated love that he has never seen before. Collins is just a really open character, he’s open to life and he’s open to love. He’s really the glue that holds this bohemian family together along with Angel. Collins is the one guy everyone loves and is excited to see, because he’s just an all-around good person.

What did you do to prepare for the role?

This is actually my first serious role, and it can be emotionally taxing— or it just really garners heavy emotion. Collins deals with heavy stuff, so to portray that, I actually went into my memory from two years ago when I lost my Grandmother. She was a huge influential part of my life. I miss her and I still wish she was here, but I feel like all things happen for a reason, and that definitely helped prepare me to take on this serious role given the depth and raw realness that is needed.

How does it feel to hit the stage in your hometown?

I am so excited. It’s amazing to be back home and to share just a snippet of what my home has given to me over the years. I grew my artistry from Philly, I got trained in Philly, and still take classes in Philly so to show them what the city has given to me is a blessing. It also just feels good to be back home anyway in my old stomping grounds, I’m definitely going to take my “Rent” family to a couple of my favorite spots and maybe grab them a cheesesteak of course.

For those who have seen “Rent” is there anything special or different about this production?

Yes, vocally this cast is impeccable. We are all good individually as vocalists, but as an ensemble, we all have this vocal chemistry that is absolutely amazing. Plus the off-stage chemistry is there, it’s just one big happy family onstage as well as off stage.

Shafiq Hicks

Is there a song or scene where that chemistry is the most palpable or maybe one you’re most excited to perform?

I’m most excited to perform “Seasons of Love”—-just to stand there and sing to the audience, and tell them basically to go throughout life living for the moment and to measure each moment in love as opposed to anything else. I’m also excited just to be singing that iconic song to fans or maybe even audience members who have never heard the song before at all and to expose them to that beautiful message in such a powerful way.

Overall what do you hope audiences take away from seeing this production of “Rent?”

I hope they take away the message to live for the now. With the Aids epidemic back in the ‘90s, it really put another level of value on life itself and life appreciation. That’s the message we want them to leave with—appreciate life and make sure you go through life giving love, hopefully receiving love in return, living in the moment and living no day but today.

“Rent” will be onstage at the Merriam Theater from Oct. 18-20. For more information and tickets visit kimmelcenter.org

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