Review: RENT at Susquehanna Stage

The production runs through December 18th.

By: Dec. 11, 2022
Review: RENT at Susquehanna Stage
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After many years and multiple attempts, the Susquehanna Stage has finally fulfilled artistic director Jim Johnson's dream of producing Rent. For audience goers, it was worth the wait. An energetic and talented group of actors, on a bright and creative set, with an incredible live band, created one of the most memorable nights at this community theater.

Making its Broadway premiere in 1996, this rock musical by Jonathan Larson dives into the world of young artists and their struggles to survive amongst poverty, drug addiction, and the HIV / AIDS epidemic. Revolving largely around two roommates, Mark and Roger, Rent takes audience members through their possible eviction, romantic encounters, and their inner struggle with the world as it is.

Rent is a challenging show to produce at any level. Not only does it require finding talented actors and vocalists possessing a wide range of abilities, the mix of quick witted comedy and heart-wrenching emotion can be a formidable task for even the most seasoned actors. It is for this reason that Rent at Susquehanna Stage is a definite MUST SEE!

Walking into the theater, one cannot help but admire the amazing set with its multi-levels and colorfully creative 90's theme designed by TK Productions. Adding to the set was a unique approach to props enabling director, Jim Johnson (along with lighting designer Jim Shomo) to create multiple environments and moods in one space. The use of payphones on wheels, for example, was a wonderful idea that not only made for convincing scenes but allowed for lovely comic relief. Another example of comic relief aided by creative lighting and props were the hilarious voicemail message scenes. While Beth Gable, Chris D'Imperio, Meredith Stone, and others were fantastic, the voicemails left by Ariana Ballerini's Mrs. Cohen were hysterical.

The level of talent at this local community theater continues to amaze audiences. Sean Deffley's Mark struck just the right balance of artist, friend, and distant loner. Deffley's brilliant acting was only outdone by his impressive vocal talents. Asher Johnson portrayed the tormented musician perfectly. Johnson easily matched vocals with Deffley and even demonstrated solid chops on guitar. These two are just one example of how duets were the standouts of the evening. Davina Lopez-Boulware shows off her incredible timing and wonderful vocals in two crowd favorites. Along with the sassy (and an appropriate amount of raunchy) Jordyn Johnson's Maureen, "Take Me or Leave Me" was a joy to watch. "Tango: Maureen", alongside Deffley's Mark highlighted the comedic skill and impressive vocal talents of these actors.

With such a remarkable cast, it's hard to say any one performer stood out above the rest. If forced, I would have to argue that it was the profound connection and portrayal of love between Jeremy Patterson's Collins and Wes Wilson's Angel that had the largest impact of the night. The beautiful and painful story that they tell was nothing less than stunning.

There is too much to say and not enough space to describe all of these talented performers. From Sonia Moll's acting, Kent Gable's and Ahleighia Carter-Croom's solo work, Joe Kelly's emotional lead into "Will I?", Wesley Hemmann's spot on sell out, to the solid vocals of the ensemble of Ali Fleming, Jon Knauss, Tevis Bryant, Monica D'Imperio, and Keifer Kemmerly, it was a wonderful night of theater.

For more information about this and other shows at Susquehanna Stage, visit: https://www.susquehannastage.com/




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