BWW Review: RENT at Saenger Theatre

BWW Review: RENT at Saenger TheatreAnswering machines and public payphones may be things of the past, but the epic rock musical RENT still holds up to this day.
Celebrating the second year of its 20th-anniversary tour, RENT has come to Saenger Theatre now through April 22 and proves that Jonathan Larson's beloved masterpiece can serve as a time capsule of an era not-so-far in the past while remaining relevant.
Compared to as the HAMILTON of its day, the success of RENT led to several national tours and numerous foreign productions after its premiere on Broadway in 1996. In 2005, RENT was adapted into a motion picture featuring most of the original cast members. Larson's re-imagining of Puccini's opera "La Bohème" follows the lives of seven impoverished artists struggling to create a living in New York's East Village during the late 80's/early 90's.
On Christmas Eve, roommates Mark and Roger struggle to stay warm while making attempts at creating their art in songwriting and filmmaking. Their friend and former roommate Benny, who has since become their landlord, goes back on an old promise and demands last year's rent before turning off their power. Mark and Roger rebel by swearing to never pay. But the real meat of the story lies within the interpersonal relationships in their circle of friends. While the themes of living with HIV/AIDS, drug addiction and sexuality may feel dated, RENT's message of hope in the face of fear is inspiring. Over the course of the story, we capture the feeling of "525,600 minutes" of love shared amongst the characters.
As the struggling musician Roger, Logan Farine is delightful. Possessing the necessary vocal chops for the role, Farine's voice will have you fall in love. If it were possible to marry just a sound, I would gladly marry Farine's voice.
As the emotionally damaged Mimi Marquez, Paola Hernandez's performance had its highs and lows. Performing in her shiny blue hot pants, her solo in "Out Tonight" was mesmerizing to watch with its combination of rhythmically upbeat song and powerful choreography. However, vocally Hernandez is hit or miss. The soft moments between herself and Roger are satisfactory, but she can't seem to punch it much higher.
In bright, colorful costumes, Aaron Alcaraz stands out as Angel, a sweet drag queen who will steal scenes and hearts in the same instant. Watching Angel's failing health due to complications with AIDS is heart-wrenching and is sure to cause a few tears to fall. As Angel's paramour, Josh Walker stars as local anarchist philosopher Tom Collins. With a strong presence, Walker's love affair with the bright Angel is one of the show's highlights and as tragedy hits, becomes its most poignant reminding us why RENT endures.
As documentary filmmaker Mark Cohen, Sammy Ferber plays the part of the watching outsider well. Behind his camera, he appears to be disconnected to his friends, watching their lives unfold much like we the audience. As the brassy freight train performance artist Maureen, Lyndie Moe embraces the role made iconic by Idina Menzel and had the audience captured in her antics, even chorusing with a few "moo's" during "Over the Moon." Jasmine Easler as Maureen's long-suffering girlfriend Joanne was effective and endearing.
the company works well together, functioning as a harmonious ensemble. Young and eager, the company's sincere rendition of "Seasons of Love" will leave you cheering for more.
Audiences will appreciate the authenticity of the production, keeping as accurate as possible to much of Larson's original show. Evan Ensign's direction, based on the original direction by Michael Greif, keeps the production moving on Paul Clay's familiar junkyard-styled, tiered set. The cast is dressed fabulously in Angela Wendt's original costume designs. Jonathan Spencer's lighting design brings the show to life whether it is from creating a police raid, or creating a motorcycle. Musical arrangements by Steve Skinner were exceptional with the five-man orchestra onstage throughout.
RENT is a timeless celebration filled with friendship and creativity. It serves to remind us to measure our lives with the only thing that genuinely matters-love.

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From This Author Tara Bennett

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