MMT QUICK CHAT with ‘RENT’ actor Shafiq Hicks

Company of RENT 20th Anniversary Production (Shafiq Hicks third from left, sitting). Photo credit: Amy Boyle

Twenty-three years ago, a new rock musical opened on Broadway that changed the landscape and taught fans that love is the greatest measurement of time. And now the Tony award and Pulitzer prize-winning RENT is celebrating its 20th performance tour anniversary by returning October 18-20 to Broadway Philadelphia – the second time this year after sold-out performances last March.

A modern re-imagining of Puccini’s La Bohème, the play invites the audience into the lives of seven creatives – struggling to fulfill their dreams while facing overwhelming odds, forming friendships and dismantling bonds – over the course of a year.

I had a chance to chat with Philly native Shafiq Hicks, who debuts on the anniversary tour in the role of Tom Collins. An alum of the esteemed Philadelphia High School for the Creative and performing Arts and the Kimmel Center’s Showstoppers and Jazz programs, Hicks is ready to bring his A-game and put his unique stamp on the Collins role.

  • What can Rent fans, old and new, expect from this particular production?

Expect a whole new take on this show individually and collectively throughout the cast. We were able to work with the original creative team of the show and they allowed and ultimately encouraged us to bring ourselves to the character and not other way around. Each actor brings a specific nuance that potentially informs the audience of a new side of the characters they’ve grown to love. And vocally, the cast is amazing! When we sing ensemble numbers, the cast boisterously fills the room with an ensemble sound like no other.

  • What do you most look forward to while bringing this project back to Philly, an area where you reside and attend school at Temple University?

I’m looking forward to the Philly audiences! Being from Philly, I understand how supportive and rollicking we can be. It’s the type of energy that this show begs for and the cast thrives off.

  • Tell me about some of your favorite Philly hangouts and where you’d recommend the cast/crew visit while they are here.

Some of my favorite spots in Philly are Penns Landing, Schuylkill River Trail, and Old City. While in Philly, a few of the cast and I are going to see a concert at World Cafe Live.

  • What advice would you give to students from your alma mater, CAPA, with theater aspirations?

Remember to be yourself and remain humble and kind. CAPA allows you to blossom not only as an artist, but as an individual. Throughout your time there you learn valuable lessons that (help) shape you. Never be afraid to be who you are or try to emulate something that you aren’t. That will ultimately put you in the place artistically that you’re supposed to be.

  • Are there any upcoming projects you want us to be on the look-out? In addition, what lessons are you taking from this experience into the next?

Currently, I’m working on my first recording project that I plan to (release) by the end of next year. Being on tour has really helped me to hone in on the importance of telling my story and that will be reflected in the music. I also plan to audition more and subsequently move to NYC for convenience.

  • Lastly, the MMT signature question: If you could portray any artist – past or present, any genre – on the big screen, who would it be and why?

I would love to portray Tyler Perry in a biopic! The story of his life and success contains similarities to my upbringing and beginning of my professional endeavors. I adore his work and all of the opportunities he has given to people of color. I cannot wait to see how he continues this trailblazing path in the future.

To witness Hicks on his path, visit to get showtimes and purchase tickets. A ticket lottery is available for each performance, and 10 winners will be selected to purchase $25 tickets at the box office (additional information at website).

Until next thought, Thomasena


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