RENT 'Goes Up' at South Jersey's Newest Theater Company
Set in the early 1990s, the musical is inspired by Puccini's La Boheme, and chronicles a year in the life of a group of friends living in the East Village during the height of the AIDS epidemic. This story of young bohemians in New York City and their battles with poverty has survived for decades as one of Broadway's most popular musicals among young and old with a cult-like following of fans affectionately known as RENT heads.
Collaborative Stage Productions (CSP) is South Jerseys' newest non-profit professional theatre company that recently announced its collaboration with The Eagle Theatre, a non-profit culturally diverse performing arts center located in downtown Hammonton, New Jersey.
CSP was created by the founders of Stage Left Productions, Ed Corsi, and The Collaborative Act Studio (TCAS), Ted Wioncek III Producing Artistic Director.
This intimate 160- seat theater located in the heart of Hammonton NJ, brought down the curtains and bright lights and put up dark walls, platforms, cat walks and heavy metal tables as set designer Justin Mead creates a cold slum-like space unfit for most people. But this young, miss matched "family" calls it home.
Under the direction of Ed "Rico' Santiago, this bare bones raw production leaves nothing to chance in capturing all the emotions and character of the piece. Larson's pop-rock score continues to delight, and is sung well by the ensemble cast.
Eagle Theater's own Ed Corsi takes on the role of Mark, the aspiring camera toting film maker who narrates the plot wittingly while interacting with the cast with enormous passion and one heck of a singing voice.
At the center of the story is Roger Davis, former rock star fresh out of rehab, and reeling from the death of his girlfriend April. Philadelphia born national recording artist Brian Bortnick plays the role of Roger Davis. Recently, Brian toured with American Idol Season 6 finalist Chris Sligh.
Bortnick gives us a glimpse of his vocal talent with a tender "Your Eyes" and the duet with Christina Maslin, (Mimi) "Light My Candle" and " I should Tell You". Maslin impresses more as a dancer and effective actor than a singer as she moves and belts well but struggles a bit with her high notes in an otherwise sweetly sung "Without You" .
Maureen (Rachel-Pinkston-Marx), puts her all into her "Over The Moon" and the combustible relationship she shares with Joanne (Benita Simpson) is well played out. The stand out performance has to go to Angel played by Josh Bessinger bringing the much needed levity to the piece and Bessinger is -over-the -top delightful.
Choreography by Dianne Certo is tight and well executed and musical director Jason Neri and a five piece band fully bring all 30+ musical numbers to life beautifully. This "Seasons of Love" company number is as passionate and well delivered as it gets. The entire company gives a focused and emotion filled performance that works!
"The Eagle Theatre is proud to welcome Collaborative Stage Productions to our venue. It is our expectation that this partnership will elevate the caliber of the performing arts in Southern New Jersey, and provide audiences from around the region with an intimate, comfortable space to see top-notch professional theatre," says James Donio, President of The Eagle Theatre.
For more information about the theatre and the 2012 season, please visit www.TheEagleTheatre.com . RENT plays at the Eagle Theater, 208 Vine St.Hammonton, NJ at selected dates through February 11. Call (609) 704-5012 for tickets or more information.
Photo # 1, Eagle Theatre - courtesy Eagle Theatre
Photo # 2, Christina Maslin (Mimi), Brian Bortnick (Roger) - courtesy Eagle Theatre
Photo # 3, RENT company, Chris Miller, Photographer