Before the Pulitzer-winning musical “Rent” began its legendary, 12-year run on Broadway in 1996, it existed in a smaller, more intimate form in New York Theatre Workshop’s 199-seat space in Manhattan’s East Village.

When it transferred to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre, said MusicalFare Theatre artistic and executive director Randall Kramer, Jonathan Larson’s masterwork “became this huge sensation, this huge money-maker, playing 2,000, 3,000-seat houses.” But in a new production of the musical opening Wednesday at MusicalFare (4380 Main St., Snyder), Kramer and his cast are shrinking the show down to size.

“We want to bring it back to its roots,” Kramer said. In an approach that will echo MusicalFare’s productions of “Man of La Mancha” and “Cabaret,” many actors will play their own instruments throughout the performance with the help of a four-piece band.

“I like that idea because this is about musicians and this is about creativity, and so to see that on stage and to see actors playing instruments on stage while the story is being told I think only enhances all of that,” said Kramer, who directs the show. “It’s still going to rock in a small space, but we’re also going to be looking at the other things, the things that can only happen when you have the intimacy of a 130-seat space that we have at MusicalFare.”

The show, which tells the story of a group of poor, city-dwelling artists striving to make something of their lives while confronting the dual scourges of drug abuse and AIDS, is based closely on Puccini’s opera “La Boheme.” It stars Steve Copps, John Kaczorowski, Key Keriman, Marc Sacco, Charmagne Chi, Paschal Frisina III, Ben Puglisi and Amy Jakiel in the major roles.

Tickets are $15 to $39, with limited $10 on-stage seats available through a pre-performance lottery. Call 839-8540 or visit

– Colin Dabkowski