BWW Review: RENT Rocks the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
Love, loss, and longing combine in Rent, the beloved Broadway classic. Written and composed by Jonathan Larson, it debuted on The Great White Way in 1996, captivating audiences around the world with its memorable characters and riveting rock anthems. A loose retelling of Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème, Rent centers around starving artists in a derelict Manhattan neighbourhood under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. The recipient of 4 Tony Awards including Best Musical, it remains a smash hit and cultural phenomenon, resonating with its themes of community and selflessness.
The struggling artists in question include moody guitarist Roger (Coleman Cummings), provocative dancer Mimi (Aiyana Smash), and quirky videographer Mark (Cody Jenkins). Cummings and Smash shine individually and dazzle together, sharing palpable chemistry as they tiptoe around the edges of a blossoming relationship. Jenkins provides impeccable comedic timing, showcasing an eccentric but commanding stage presence.
Rounding out the eclectic group are professor Tom Collins (Shafiq Hicks), sassy drag queen Angel (Joshua Tavares), and outspoken actress Maureen (Kelsee Sweigard), and public interest lawyer Joanne (Samantha Mbolekwa). Hicks and Tavares shine in their heartfelt rendition of I'll Cover You while Sweigard and Mbolekwa racked up big laughs with their over-the-top banter. As a whole, the cast mesmerizes with their acting and singing, delivering heartfelt performances and a rousing rendition of legendary anthem Seasons of Love.
Another noteworthy star is the production's iconic set design. An artist's study of light and shadows, the stage is complete with weathered facades and decrepit fire escapes, its spacious foreground paying tribute to loneliness in the midst of a bustling city. The production's lighting is also impressive, featuring shadows laced with lights evoking passion and despair. Although excessive on occasion, the special effects further establish a strong sense of place, creating a dark and moody atmosphere that envelops the audience into the tumultuous production's world.
Arresting and evocative, Rent is a poignant depiction of love and what it means to be human. It plays Edmonton's Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium until September 8.
*Image credit: Playbill.com