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BWW Review: RENT's 20th Anniversary Tour Plays at DPAC

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Mark is not typically my favorite character in "Rent." His narrative voice is usually overwhelmed by the power vocals and - let's face it - melodrama of Roger.

The 20th anniversary tour of "Rent" completely changed this view. Danny Harris Kornfeld's performance as Mark was authentic, emotional and artistic, and he really tied the musical together in a way that I think was probably Jonathan Larson's intent. Meanwhile, Kaleb Wells' Roger brought out the overly emotional, almost whiny aspects of the character. It may have been intentional, but it didn't win me over.

RENT 20th Anniversary Tour,
Credit Carol Rosegg, 2016

Kornfeld wasn't the only bright spot in the production, however. In fact, as is one of the strengths of "Rent," the ensemble as a whole was remarkable. One of the really unique characteristics of "Rent" is that there isn't truly a main character, and even outside the primary group of friends, you get to see other people that come alive as New Yorkers dealing with AIDS, homelessness, addiction and poverty. They're not caricatures; they're people who you can imagine with full lives and histories. A couple of them are also featured in "Seasons of Love" - and wow! did they pack a punch.

Jasmine Easler and Katie LaMark also had standout performances as Joanne and Maureen, respectively. Their dynamic was humorous but also sweet, and as an audience member, you find yourself alternately laughing at them ("Moo!"), frustrated with them and rooting for them.

Angel's funeral scene is not easy to watch, and I imagine it's even harder to perform, especially for AaRon Harrington, who plays the grieving Collins. But when he sang the line "when your heart has expired," his voice rang through the theatre with all of the raw, heartbreaking beauty we've come to expect from that moment.

It's worth seeing this production for its historical value; 20 years of an iconic show like "Rent" is something to celebrate. It's worth seeing it in memory of Jonathan Larson, who died the morning of the show's first preview performance in 1996. It's worth seeing because the themes - acceptance, compassion, friendship - are still incredibly relevant in 2016. And it's worth seeing because it's entertaining. It will make you laugh. It will give you chills. It will make you cry.

It's a night you don't want to miss.


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From This Author Taryn Oesch

Taryn is a copyeditor and freelance writer in Raleigh, where she is a behind-the-scenes member of the theatre community. Her favorite plays/musicals are Next to (read more...)