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BWW Review: 'You'll See' RENT At Heinz Hall this Week

BWW Review: 'You'll See' RENT At Heinz Hall this Week

To see a show, you must rent a seat. You become the temporary tenant occupying the vacant chair for a specified time. When the show is through, the lease is up. Unfortunately, Mark and Roger could never afford to see a show, let alone afford to pay last year's rent.

Now on its 20th Anniversary Tour, Rent is still entertaining audiences by showing Mark and Roger's lack of financial support, the struggle and strife the characters endure, and the community they are a part of.

Rent's debut in the 1990s created a movement that has influenced shows over the last two decades, in terms of style and subject matter; it's not every day that a show concerning the AIDS epidemic wins a Tony Award.

But what is all the hype about? The plot of the show is frail and spacey, but the characters themselves don't lack substance. An entire year is condensed to two and a half hours; people come and go, friends die, and feelings change. But the relationships that are forged and the raw emotions that are projected are what make the show a phenomenon.

The characters, intertwined in each other's business, can be a bit confusing so I'll tread lightly; the communal cast is comprised of Mark and Roger, who live in a vacant building, and homeless people that live in the adjacent lot. When Mark and Roger's former roommate buys the building and lot and tries to evict everyone, the community comes together and rebels. Mark's ex-girlfriend, turned lesbian, Maureen puts on a protest with the help of her current girlfriend Joanne and ex-boyfriend. About a dozen other cast members comprise the web that links everyone together.

As someone who is a little skeptical when it comes to rock musicals, I was pleasantly surprised with the blending of rock chords with more classical show tune melodies. Songs that are known even outside the musical theatre world ("Seasons of Love" and "Take Me or Leave Me") are meshed with more than two-dozen other numbers in this singer-heavy show.

"Today 4 U" performed by the drag queen Angel (Aaron Alcaraz) is electrifying, and it becomes clear that she is a character that profoundly touches all in the show. Soon after, "Tango: Maureen" is the spark that ignites the rest of the Rent engine. Mark (Sammy Ferber) and Joanne (Jasmine Easler) sing and dance in comedic unison, and it's in this scene when I realize that I'm in for a treat.

The industrial looking set never changes from scene to scene; the orchestra is seated near the back of the stage. Twisted metal and garbage create a jungle gym across the stage for the cast members. Small props, like a camera, a guitar, and an answering machine are what help the audience transition with the characters from one scene to another.

Rent is also a 2005 movie starring many of the same actors that popularized the show on Broadway. A decent attempt to convert a musical for the masses, the movie provides clearer hints as to where certain action is taking place. However, the movie falls short of the human connection offered by the stage version. For me, I'd take the latter.


To see or not to see score: 6/9; Moderately Recommended Show

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg, 2017

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From This Author Dylan Shaffer

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