BWW Review: RENT at The Overture Center
Rent is the story of a group of friends struggling to create a life in New York City's East Village in the 90's. Based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Boheme, this Tony Award winning show has never really been the feel-good musical of the year. The hard-hitting show deals mainly with the topics of AIDS, addiction, and homelessness.
The story unfolds as told by Mark (Sammy Ferber) who films the struggles of his roommate Roger (Kaleb Wells); an ex-junkie whose girlfriend informed him that they both have AIDS before she killed herself. Mark includes their friend Tom Collins (Devinre Adams) and his new love Angel (Aaron Alcaraz), along with Mark's ex-girlfriend Maureen (Lyndie Moe) and her new love Joanne (Jasmine Easler) in his documentary about staying one step ahead of one-time-friend-and-roommate-turned-slumlord Benny (Marcus John).
There is much I have forgotten about this show in the 15 years or so since I have seen it. I've forgotten that the character development is thin. I've forgotten that it is slumlord Benny who has the biggest change in character but that that arc is never really explained; he just suddenly changes who he is. I mainly had forgotten about how I only end up caring about three of the characters.
I care about Roger, who after meeting and being attracted to potential new love interest Mimi (Skyler Volpe), pushes her away because he has AIDS. He cares and wants desperately to do the right thing, and in doing so, introduces a real human element into the play.
I care about Tom Collins, who after getting mugged is discovered by Angel, the potential new love in his life. He and Angel both immediately divulge to each other that they have AIDS and begin a life of love together.
And, I care about Angel. But in all honesty.... EVERYONE cares about Angel. Angel was created to be loved, and the actor Aaron Acaraz was made to be Angel.
I found Roger and Mimi's chemistry to be believable and intense. I also was pulled into the relationship between Tom Collins and Angel. All four actors were amazing to watch and to listen to. I did not feel the same chemistry between Joanne and Maureen. While I enjoyed both actors independent from each other (and again, great vocals), together they lost some of their luster and their relationship felt forced.
The music is phenomenal, and the actors are great at carrying the show. There were some sound issues, and as I walked by the sound booth on my way out I could hear those being worked out. The vocals are what this show is all about, and they have stood the test of time, keeping the audience truly engaged as demonstrated by fervent applause after nearly every number. Mimi singing "Out Tonight" was goose-bump inducing, and her and Roger singing "Without You" was jaw dropping. The top performance of the night was Tom Collins singing "I Will Cover You" in the second act. It got to me the first time I saw the show, and still gets to me today.
All in all, this was a great trip down memory lane. The show is dated and, perhaps because of that, some of its cheesiness was more apparent this time around. That being said, I enjoyed it a great deal, and expect that you will too!
RENT Kicks Off the New Year in Madison
20th Anniversary Tour To Play Overture Hall
Tues., Jan. 2 - Sun., Jan. 7, 2018
The New Year will kick off at Overture Center with the RENT 20th Anniversary Tour, the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning landmark rock musical written by Jonathan Larson, from Tues., Jan. 2-Sun., Jan. 7, 2018.
RENT continues to speak loudly and defiantly to audiences across generations and all over the world. A re-imagining of Puccini's La Bohème, RENT follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. With its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear, this timeless celebration of friendship and creativity reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters-love.
Leading the cast is Sammy Ferber as "Mark Cohen," Kaleb Wells as "Roger Davis," Skyler Volpe as "Mimi Marquez," Aaron Harrington as "Tom Collins," Aaron Alcaraz as "Angel Dumott Schunard," Lyndie Moe as "Maureen Johnson," Jasmine Easler as "Joanne Jefferson," and Marcus John as "Benny Coffin III." The tour will also feature DevinRé Adams, Alana Cauthen, Ashley de la Rosa, Jordan Dunn-Pilz, Logan Farine, Devin J. Hall, Paola Hernandez, Jordan Long, Felix Marchany, Cameron W. Mullin, Chrissy Naruo, and Yael Reich.
Based on original direction by Michael Greif (Tony and Drama Desk Nominations, RENT), Evan Ensign re-stages the 20th anniversary tour. Original Broadway creatives Marlies Yearby (Choreography), Angela Wendt (Costume Design), and Tim Weil (Music Supervision and Additional Arrangements) are joined by Jonathan Spencer (Lighting Design), Keith Caggiano (Sound Design), MiRi Park (Associate Choreographer), and Matthew E. Maraffi (adapting original scenic design by Paul Clay) to make up the creative team for the tour. The RENT 20th Anniversary Tour was cast by Joy Dewing Casting with additional casting by Wojcik | Seay Casting.
The show received its world premiere off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop on February 13, 1996 to ecstatic reviews and transferred to Broadway on April 29, 1996. RENT won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Tickets are available at the Overture Center box office (201 State Street), by visiting overture.org/rent, or by calling 608.258.4141. Group orders of ten or more may be placed by calling 608.258.4159. Prior to the Thurs., Jan. 4 performance, patrons can attend a pre-show Get Social event with screen printing demos, trivia, food and drinks. There will also be a post-show Meet the Artist for ticketholders immediately following the Thurs., Jan. 4 performance.
RENT is part of the Broadway at Overture Series, presented by Lexus of Madison and Broadway Across America with additional support from community partner UW Health/Quartz and media partner WMTV-NBC15.
Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wis., features seven state-of-the-art performance spaces and five galleries where national and international touring artists, ten resident companies and hundreds of local artists engage people in nearly 700,000 educational and artistic experiences each year. Overture.org
Broadway Across America is part of The John Gore Organization family of companies, which includes Broadway.com, under the supervision of 11-time Tony-winning producer John Gore (Owner & CEO). Current and past productions include Beautiful, Cats, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Groundhog Day, Hairspray, Hello, Dolly!, Million Dollar Quartet, On Your Feet!, The Producers, School of Rock and Waitress BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com; Broadway.com