BWW Review: RENT: THE 20th ANNIVERSARY TOUR Will Make You Feel Seasons Of Love!
The hit Broadway musical: Rent opened up Broadway Across Canada's 2019-20 season with it's 20th Anniversary Tour at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on September 17th. Highlighting the story of struggling artists living in the East Village of New York City, we explore their struggles with life, love, and HIV/AIDS. Rent: The 20th Anniversary Tour plays at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver till Sunday September 22nd!
Directed by Evan Ensign and based on the original direction by Michael Greif, this show was an overall spectacle. The set and sound design were notable aspects of the show. At first glance, the set really gives off a grungy, hipster vibe. Mismatched chairs, large artsy sculptures, and metal sub stages make up the set. Designed by Paul Clay and adapted by Matthew E. Maraffi, the set was a perfect fit for the story and time frame of 1989-1990. Although the set didn't drastically change throughout the show, it allowed for one dynamic and complicated story to take place in it. The different levels of staging combined with the lighting by Jonathan Spencer focused your attention and helped with the plot and scene changes. One of my favorite parts of the show was the sound design by Keith Caggiano. Throughout the show, the story is interrupted by voice mails from an answering machine. When these messages were left, the sound style changed to mimic old style answering machines, which I thought was really interesting. The sound was purposely muffled with hints of static background noise with it. These small details in the show did not go unnoticed and added more depth to the production.
As a long time fan of Rent, I was really excited for this show and it did not disappoint. The audience was made up of people of all ages and was completely packed on opening night. You could tell that many people in the audience were fans of the show as there was lots of cheering and enthusiasm coming from them after each musical number. The actors on stage had a lot of chemistry with one another. "Light My Candle" featuring Roger (Coleman Cummings) and Mimi (Aiyana Smash) was the start of something beautiful between the two characters. Despite the baggage they both have, they put it aside and learned about each other this number. Cummings and Smash connected perfectly and had everyone laughing and smiling with their flirty singing during the song. One of the more firecracker numbers of this show was "Today 4 You" featuring Joshua Tavares as the legendary Angel Schunnard. Tavares' voice was incredible and so was his dancing in this number. I won't give everything that happens in this number away; however, there is a point where Tavares jumps onto the table in high heels and I have to say that I was very impressed! "Out Tonight" and "Over The Moon" were also very notable numbers sporting lots of power, sass, and exuberance in them. Smash's dance number in "Out Tonight" had everyone cheering her on and "Over The Moon" had people literally "mooing" in their seats. I was most nervous for the number "La Vie Boheme" which comes at the end of Act I. In the past productions I've seen, this number has been kind of hokey, which took away from the brilliance of the entire show. In this production of Rent, this was not the case. Cast members were enthusiastic and remained very true to their characters. It was a lot of fun to watch and the number retained the authenticity of the original Rent musical while adding its own modern touch in it.
I was thoroughly impressed with the cast in this production. Aiyana Smash (Mimi) and Kelsee Sweigard (Maureen) stole the show for me. They played their characters with such spark and emotion that you really got to learn who they were throughout the show. Samantha Mbolekwa (Joanne) had amazing chemistry with Sweigard. Their number "Take Me Or Leave Me" was so much fun to watch. The alternation between their banter and passion for one another was very entertaining. Other memorable performances included Shafiq Hicks (Tom Collins), Cody Jenkins (Mark), Coleman Cummings (Roger), and Joshua Taveres (Angel). Each actor had their own struggle that they dealt with in the show you could tell they really felt the emotion that came with it making their performance very genuine.
RENT: The 20th Anniversary Tour was one of the most enjoyable shows I've seen this year! This show is definitely worthwhile to see and is absolutely worth the money for tickets. Rent is currently playing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver from September 17th to 22nd. Tickets are available at https://ticketmaster.ca of by calling 1-855-682-6736.
Photo Credit: Amy Boyle, 2019