BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy FunPasadena's Stage Door Inc. is greeting 2013 with the 1996 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Jonathan Larson's renown musical RENT. RENT, inspired by Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème, tells the story of a handful of New York City's East Village artists and their struggles with life, love, AIDS, and addiction.

Stage Door Inc.'s Executive Director Marc Anthony Glover smartly directs the production. Utilizing his stage space, he adds a few unique touches to the production that provide pleasant surprises for audience members who have seen the show multiple times. In all honesty, as someone who has seen at least five professional productions of RENT, including the brilliantly played final Broadway tour with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, I was not expecting to enjoy this production. In the long run, Marc Anthony Glover proved me wrong and presented a production of RENT that was enjoyable and at times very powerful in his intimate venue. My two favorite unique aspects of his production was the surround effect and candles used in "Will I" and Angel's delightfully costumed entrance in "Finale B."

Leading the show, Travis Hamilton's Roger and Michael "Mikey" Hougton's Mark are both well sung and well acted. These two men make the audience care for them and their struggles. At the top of the show, Travis Houghton's strumming on the electric guitar did not match the canned music. Any fears this caused were instantly chased away when he opened his mouth to sing the opening number "RENT." Highlights from the two male leads include Travis Hamilton's rocking, emotionally stirring "One Song Glory," Michael "Mikey" Houghton's insightful "Halloween," and their duet on "What You Own."

As Mimi, Gretchen Odum entertains as she dances and sings. Very few of the Mimi's I have ever seen find their upper-register on "Out Tonight," and Gretchen Odum was no different. Despite missing the notes, she was convincing and enjoyable in every other aspect of the show. Her "Goodbye Love" was perfectly heartbreaking, and perhaps my favorite moment of hers on stage.

Leslie Sharp's Maureen is a pure diva. In her bio she states that this is the most challenging role she has ever played, but her preparation and hard work shine through in the performance. Despite being sick at the performance I saw, she sang in full voice. Her solo on "Seasons of Love" and her rendition of "Over the Moon" were simply magnificent.

Opposite Leslie Sharp's Maureen is Simone Williams' powerhouse performance as Joanne. When on stage, Simone Williams commands attention and deserves every bit of it. Her Joanne is a perfect portrayal of what audiences who prefer the Broadway version to the film version have come to expect from the role. Her performances of "Tango Maureen" and "Take Me or Leave Me" were easily some of the best moments in the whole show.

Playing Angel, Tyonce Moore showcases every ounce of talent that makes her a trained and talented triple threat. She dances and sings with tangible exuberance. The only flaw in her performance was that she was obviously winded by the end of "Today 4 U," which really is not a problem for me. Having seen Angel's who forgo the dancing for the vocals, I prefer my Angel's who know to dance their hearts out. The role is physically demanding and that should never be overlooked for any reason.

Rocky Banks' Collins was my least favorite character in this production. I have high expectations for Collins because he is my favorite role in the show and somewhat of a dream role for me. I found Rocky Banks' talking in rhythm and talk-singing to be completely annoying and distracting. He fantastically portrays the emotional character aspects of the show. Yet, as someone who appears to have problems singing, he seems unfairly miscast in the show. Furthermore, in my opinion, if he cannot sing the solo in "Seasons of Love," I don't understand why the director didn't give it to someone else. After all, they did have Travis Hamilton sing under him to bring it out anyway.

Benny, as portrayed by Daniel Edwards, comes across as a fiscally savvy New York Jew. This was an interesting take on the role that I found rather enjoyable. I'd like to see Daniel Edwards take a risk and go for gold by adding in a consistent New York accent. Without it his performance is fun, with it, I feel his performance would be brilliant.

Usually the chorus works harder in this show than the leads. In this RENT they get a bit more respite as Marc Anthony Glover has staged the show to allow for less people on stage than the audience may be used to seeing on some of the scenes. However, each member of the chorus does a great job fleshing out the show, whether it be adding nice tonal harmonies or dancing. They work hard and are convincing in their various roles.

Marc Anthony Glover's Set Design utilizes levels and is appropriately gritty and grimy. It creates a fantastic 90s feel that is echoed in the costuming. RENT is a deceptively large show, so it was interesting to see it in such a small and intimate venue. Marc Anthony Glover shows his knowledge of the show and his space, perfectly shoehorning each scene into his theatre.

Light Design, also by Marc Anthony Glover, is effective and evocative.

Sound Design by Travis Hamilton perfectly blends the canned music with the volume of the non-miked voices so that the music comes form the stage and lands appropriately in the audiences' ears.

Stage Door Inc.'s production of RENT is the first time I have seen a community theatre tackle the show, and I was pleasantly surprised. While it may not be my favorite performance of RENT, it certainly wasn't my least favorite-a distinction reserved for Michael Greif's 2011 Off-Broadway revival of the musical at New World Stages. Despite the flaws, if you're looking for a fun, high-energy production of RENT, Stage Door Inc. has your ticket.

Jonathan Larson's iconic RENT runs through January 27, 2013 at Stage Door Inc. Stage Door Inc. is located within the Pasadena Town Square Mall at 284 Pasadena Town Square Mall, Pasadena, Texas. For tickets or more information, please visit http://www.stagedoorinc.com/ or call (832) 582 - 7606.

Photos courtesy of Stage Door Inc.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun
Gretchen Odum and Travis Hamilton as Mimi Marquez and Roger Davis.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun
Leslie Sharp as Maureen Johnson.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun
Michael Houghton as Mark Cohen.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun
Rocky Banks and Tyonce Moore as Collins and Angel.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun
Simone Williams as Joanne Jefferson.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun
Tyonce Moore as Angel.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun
Gretchen Odum and Travis Hamilton as Mimi Marquez and Roger Davis.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door Inc.'s RENT is High-Energy Fun

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