BWW Review: RENT Rocks at Victoria Theatre Association
RENT tells the story of one year in the life of a group of twenty somethings struggling with life, poverty, drug addiction and HIV/AIDS in 1990's New York. Many people are at least familiar with the song Seasons of Love which has made its way into many other areas of popular culture. RENT was written by Jonathan Larson, who sadly passed away the night before RENT premiered Off-Broadway. It is heartbreaking to know that he never saw the success of his show and the fact that it has endured long enough to now be on its 20th anniversary tour nor was he here to receive his Tony awards for the show.
A few years ago before introducing my teenagers to RENT, I wondered if they would still find it as relevant in the 2010s as it was to me in the 1990s. I am of an age that I have lost people that I cared about to AIDS. Medications are now better and AIDS isn't in the forefront of the media as it was for my generation. They did indeed find it still relevant but for them, drug addiction and poverty are what are now relevant for them. That is what they see. RENT is just one of those musicals that everyone can find something different that is meaningful for them.
I have seen this show several times and I always judge every production by the strength of my favorite song, the I'll Cover You (Reprise). Shafiq Hicks as Tom Collins was simply stellar, with a heartbreaking performance and a voice that will resonate straight through to your soul. His chemistry with the incredible Joshua Tavares as Angel is lovely and confirms why this couple is always my favorite of the show and one of my favorites in musical theatre.
The rest of the cast also impressed with some standout performances. My favorites were Take Me or Leave Me sung by powerhouses Kelsee Sweigard (Maureen) and Samantha Mbolekwa (Joanne), the charming Light My Candle and emotional Without You from brooding Coleman Cummings (Roger) and the dynamic Aiyana Smash (Mimi) and What You Own from energetic Cody Jenkins (Mark) and the aforementioned Cummings. I also loved the entire company in their Act I ending rendition of the lively La Vie Boheme. This was a great ensemble. Everything they did together was cohesive and enjoyable.
Five performances remain for you to see RENT at the Schuster Center Performing Arts brought to you by the Victoria Theatre Association. Tickets ranging from $26 to $104 can be purchased at www.ticketcenterstage.com or by calling 937-228-3630. A limited number of tickets are available for $20 through a special lottery, details of which can be found at Ticket Center Stage or on the VTA facebook page.
Photo credit: Amy Boyle, 2019