Jasmine Fitzgerald and Justine Peña Praise Synergy of “Rent” Cast

Jasmine and Justine are never alone with “Rent” team

Theater actresses Jasmine Fitzgerald and Justine Peña both agree that the 2024 version of “Rent: The Musical” is surrounded by supportive people.

They play alternates for the role of Maureen Johnson in the Philippine adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s musical.

“Rent” tells the story of a struggling youth at the dusk of HIV/AIDS while they face conflicts on their way to love and success. 

In the making, both ladies sense the stress from the piece’s demand. 

Justine explained, “I would say, the tense or the stress of it comes from the difficulty of the material and wanting to do with justice…

However, she is relieved by the ensemble’s contagious support because it eases down the tension.

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The actress-host continued, “But then, it’s so great because you’re met with such a nurturing cast.

“It really feels like you can experiment together so the stress of it is more of like, ‘Jasmine, am I getting this right?’ It’s good to have, like, a partner to talk about it with that sort of thing. 

“The rest of the cast whereas after the show, kahit sobrang lungkot, after that, naka-smile kayo kasi you feel like you’re all doing this together.”

Likewise, Jasmine finds building a good working relationship essential to achieving harmony within the actors. 

The singer added, “And you’re really not alone.

“In this cast, there’s so much support. It’s a wonderful cast and it’s a new journey for a lot of us and it’s good to share it with this cast. 

“And especially for this material, because compared to the other shows I’ve done, it is based on family, friendship, and love. So, somewhat, it’s coming out naturally also.

“The longer the cast stays together, and you see, they’re getting closer and closer, and the support will be there. So, hopefully, that will be shown to the audience. They’ll see that love, and we can spread that love.”

READ ALSO: Sparkle Singer Thea Astley Tries Acting In Theater Via “Rent: The Musical”

Playing Maureen Johnson

Jasmine and Justine also lean on each other as alternates of Maureen. 

Justine, who had been an alternate for Karylle in “Cinderella,” said it may be challenging, but a little faith from your partner can make a difference.

She believed, “It’s always such a different challenge because it’s always one thing that you know your alternate is gonna give something else.

“So, you have to both trust yourself and trust them at the same time you get to learn from them so with this kind of a show na medyo mabigat talaga.

“It’s so good na you and your alternate kind of give each other support at the same time.”

As for Jasmine, she appreciates that she and Justine have the same mind about playing Maureen.

In her words, “Two minds is always better than one. 

“I’m the type of person that I really pressure myself a lot and overthink so having Jus, having a go-to, it just makes it so much easier and nicer because you have support.”

They even exchange insights to better understand the character.

According to Justine, “I would say, she is a narcissistic diva with her heart in the right place. 

“I would describe her as like, the panganay who kind of has that messiah complex who thinks that it’s about her but really, [she] just wants to look out for everyone, but she does it in a very bossy, overbearing way. That kind of thing.”

Similarly, Jasmine described, “She’s narcissistic. She’s a diva. She thinks everything is about her. 

“She always wants to be the star but if you look deeper into it, I think she’s, a lot of people can relate, she has good intentions but she just wants love, you know what I mean? So that burst of always wanting to be this, I think she’s not as secure as a person.”

In total, Jasmine and Justine agreed that Maureen can be crazy. 

A sisterhood formed over tea

Other than sharing the same role, the two ladies bonded more over tea.  

Justine joked it’s the signs of aging—from always talking about back pains over tea, calling themselves the “lolas of the show.” 

Justine shared, “We are the oldest girls of the batch here. 

“During rehearsal, we’re seeing them [cast members] standing, running around, and it’s like, ‘Are we called yet?’ ‘No? Okay.’

“We’ll sit, warm-up and then after, we’ll sit. Then, you’ll see us, hawakhawak namin pareho yung mga tumbler namin. ‘Tapos parang parehong may tsaa. ‘Oh, what’s yours?’ ‘Ginger.’ ‘Throat Coat.’ 

Kami yung nagtitipid ng energy. Kung sila yung nagta-tumbling-tumbling ‘pag break, kami yung parang naguunat na parang, ‘Kailan tayo magpapamasahe?’

Jasmine says of this, “We’re the older girls but we’re still young… until you see us with our teas and our mugs!”

The journey of Jasmine and Justine

It matters that they both have been in the theatrical scene for a long time too.

The first professional theater production Jasmine joined was “Barbie and the Diamond Castle” in Indonesia when she was 18 to 19 years old. 

She also worked as a performer in Resorts World and was once a part of the girl group “Singing Sensation.”

Jasmine is a true kontesera having been in different competitions such as “Star In A Million,” “The Clash,” and even “Little Miss Philippines” when she was 6 years old.

Justine was amazed by her alternative since she does not think contests are for her.

Before “Rent,” Justine was in Sandbox Collective’s “Lungs” and Barefoot Theatre Collaborative’s “Dekada ‘70.”

She also used to be in Resorts World Singer and she hosted O-Shopping for 6 years.

“Rent” is directed by Robbie Gueverra and produced by 9 Works Theatrical. It started its run on April 19 at RCBC Plaza, Ayala Ave Makati.

Text Pamela Torres
Interview Jimpy Anarcon
Banner Art Paulo Correa

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