Carl De Villa’s healing journey through RENT

by | Feb 19, 2024


Growing in the Philippines, Carl De Villa had to learn to “hustle and bustle” from a very young age. It was an environment that resulted in traumatic experiences for De Villa, who admits it sounds very vague, but explains it’s “too much to handle”. The trauma is not something De Villa wants to unpack at any stage, not even through formal therapy. But through playing Angel in RENT, Carl De Villa has found healing.

“RENT has been a very good journey for me. Doing it is more like a healing opportunity for all the trauma I’ve had.”

Carl De Villa had always been a singer and the music industry was a big part of their life. De Villa “fell into theatre by accident” when a friend suggested De Villa audition for 42nd Street. The Regals Musical Society was calling for male dancers. Although De Villa didn’t consider themself to be a dancer or actor, they knew they could sing and went along to the audition.

“And they booked me!” De Villa laughed.

Further roles followed in Miss Saigon (Packemin Productions) and Dreamgirls (Regals Musical Society). More recently, De Villa took to the stage at Melbourne’s Chapel of Chapel as Lola in Kinky Boots (James Terry Collective), before landing this latest role of Angel in RENT.

De Villa is now keen to continue their journey into the world of musical theatre.

“I would love to pursue this further. It’s a very good environment.”

Carl De Villa didn’t know much about RENT going into the production.

“I did not know who Angel was. I did not know his and her life story in the musical. When I was given the role that’s when I started researching about Angel.”

As Carl De Villa explored the role of Angel, they realised just how much they resonated with the character of Angel.

“Coming from a life that had so many struggles I absorb those struggles and challenges, but I release that in a way that’s healthy for other people if they experience it. I give them some guidance on to get back on their feet and that’s how I resonate so much with Angel.”

Going through the rehearsal process and then bringing the character of Angel to life on stage, Carl De Villa has discovered Angel’s sense of generosity and loving. Bringing that to an audience in each performance has brought De Villa many tears of joy.

“They see this person being generous, being loving and giving, but they can all see what was shared by Angel. She has AIDS, she knows how to cope with life, but that’s just the outside of the story, and having and releasing that in a way that is so positive about life, is just so overwhelming and so good. It makes me teary every time I share it.”

The cast of RENT have just finished a season in Brisbane ahead of the Melbourne season, and I asked Carl De Villa how audiences have reacted to the show. It’s a question that stirred up emotions for De Villa.

“I saw authentic responses of the audience. I saw them cry. And if I see them cry, I cry more!”

RENT was indeed well received by critics and audiences alike, with standing ovations each performance, which De Villa admitted made them cry even more.

“I wasn’t expecting it! We were in awe, It was amazing. It’s a wonderful experience to be honest and I’m very grateful to the production team for having me.”

As Carl De Villa prepares for the Melbourne season of RENT, they hope that audiences will go away with a sense of love and generosity, to look beyond the outer layer and acknowledgment other people’s struggles.

“If someone bites you, don’t bite them back. Just give them bread, they might be hungry.”



RENT is now playing at the Arts Centre, Melbourne as part of a national tour.

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