BWW BLOG: RENT 20th Anniversary Tour Takes on Oklahoma City's Civic Center Music Hall
Jess here. One of the most iconic shows of the late 1990's is undoubtedly Jonathan Larson's Tony Award winning rock opera, "RENT." Recently stopping at Oklahoma City's Civic Center Music Hall on tour, this revolutionary show is celebrating its 20th Anniversary, and continues to touch the hearts of audiences the world over. Adapted from "La Boheme" by Puccini, "RENT" is based on Larson's personal experiences while living in New York City, and relays many of the difficulties he overcame while pursuing a career as a playwright and composer. "RENT" changed the face of contemporary musical theatre by addressing a number of pressing societal issues full on, including LGBTQ+ rights, depression, addiction, AIDS, and poverty/homelessness. This is by far one of my favorite shows of all time, and having the opportunity to see it performed by a professional company was a humbling, and incredibly enlightening experience.
The core cast of seven characters that made the reality based "RENT" such a relevant turn of the Century production were headed by the dynamic duo of roommates, Mark and Roger, as portrayed by Sammy Ferber and Kaleb Wells, respectively. Their complex interactions translated brilliantly onstage, with the honesty and resilience of their friendship well played throughout. Additionally, Wells' relationship with Skyler Volpe (Mimi) was flawlessly delivered, and their turbulent, yet passionate connection crucially defined and reinforced the show's plotline of desperate times leading to desperate measures. Aaron Alcaraz (Angel) and Aaron Harrington (Collins) had amazing chemistry, and watching their characters grow over the course of the show was one of the definite highlights in the production. A personal favorite of mine was Jasmine Easler (Joanne). Her vocals were absolutely stunning, and her character's strong-willed nature clashed poetically with the defiant stubbornness of her counterpart, Lyndie Moe (Maureen). A common thread held between all of these characters was their disdain for the "villain" of the story, Marcus John (Benny), whose role as the landlord created conflict within the group on many levels.
Overall, the entire cast was tightly meshed, and I was extremely impressed by the well-honed vocal stamina and solidity of the entire ensemble, with "La Vie Boheme" and "Seasons of Love" in particular, delivering a powerful punch in highlighting the show's message of diversity and unity.
The set design by Paul Clay and costuming by Angela Wendt both emulated the look of the original Broadway run, which was the perfect way to pay homage to the traditional importance of this production. The director, Evan Ensign, did a wonderful job of making this essential piece of theatre carry as much impact as it did 20 years ago, with its relevance continuing to be accurate to the present day.
Anyone who has a love for real, yet at times, painfully true art should make it a point to see this show. I guarantee that its infectious music and beautifully honest plot will touch many emotions in the way that good theatre was meant to.
"We had a good thing going, going, gone" -Stephen Sondheim