Curtains rise on live theater again in Bakersfield with Ovation Theatre’s production of ‘Rent’

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The COVID-19 pandemic brought so many aspects of society to a screeching halt, and one industry many feared would never be the same was live theater.

However, after more than a year, curtains will open on a live show once again here in Bakersfield at the Ovation Theatre, even before shows reopen on Broadway or at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles.

Through July 11, the theater will be showing a production of “Rent.” 

For the Ovation Theatre, being able to open a new show is a happy conclusion to more than a year of uncertainty. 

“Back in October, November of last year, we were sitting here going, ‘what are we looking at here, what are we truly facing, are we going to be able to do shows again?’” said Hal Friedman, artistic director for the theater. “We weren’t sure, Broadway wasn’t sure.”

However, as the vaccine rollout began and things started to reopen this spring, Friedman and his partners were waiting in the wings. They got the rights to “Rent.”

Despite beginning rehearsals with everyone in a mask, and with the final act for the production still uncertain at the time, they knew Kern County needed live theater. 

“It’s an important cultural thing, especially in America,” Friedman said. “The American musical was invented by Americans and went on to become the most popular art form on stage, and so a show like ‘Rent,’ being able to bring back the American musical right now, I think it’s something so important.” 

The show opened last weekend. The reaction from the audience? No less than a standing ovation. 

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Friedman said. “The audience, everyone just gathered in the lobby and as each person, technician, musician and actor came out, they just cheered. It’s like they got some sort of catharsis from it.”

Friedman said he hopes audiences will continue to come out to see the show throughout its run.

“We hope you come in and have a great night of entertainment that takes your mind off everything that’s gone on for the last year and a half, or at least is a catharsis in some way,” he said. “And number two, we hope we touch you. We hope you are able to sit here and be affected and grow from this.”

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit

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