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BWW Review: RENT at Golden Gate Theatre


Jonathan Larson's 25 Anniversary of Rent

BWW Review: RENT at Golden Gate Theatre

Jonathan Larson's small off-Broadway show about love and fear during the AIDS pandemic and has had a phenomenal life- Tony and Pulitzer Awards, running on Broadway for twelve years and seen worldwide in successive tours. Loosely based on Pucinni's La Bohème, the play touches a strong cord among young adults and artists in its portrayal of the incredible fear of death, the joys of new love and the loss of creative spaces. We here in San Francisco can surely empathize with Rent's messages. This spectacular touring cast was embraced heartily by a very youthful audience, who, while not born during the AID crisis, still experience its long-lasting ramifications.

BWW Review: RENT at Golden Gate Theatre
The company of Rent

This current touring production is a standout in every aspect: from the entire 15-member cast to the outstanding band, to the production's lighting (Jonathan Spencer), Choreography (Marlies Yearby) and Set Design (Matthew E. Maraffi). Evan Ensign restages the production and its sizzles with movement and sound you'd expect from a rock musical.

Opening night saw understudy Tommy Kaiser stand in for the role of Mark Cohen, the struggling Jewish filmmaker who chronicles his friend's lives over the course of a year. He was wonderful and displays the depth of this touring cast. Every lead was a standout with phenomenal voices. Aiyanna Smash's (Mimi), the drug-addicted stripper, is both strong and vulnerable. Her "Out Tonight" number is a seductive Act 1 showstopper. Shafiq Hicks (Tom Collins) and Javon King (Angel) are endearing, funny and bittersweet and extremely talented. Lyndie Moe (Maureen) and her girlfriend Rayla Garske (Joanne) are strong, assertive women providing some much-needed comic relief. Coleman Cumming's Roger is conflicted, grieving and hopeless till he finds love.

BWW Review: RENT at Golden Gate Theatre
Aiyanna Smash as Mimi

Larson's score provides the exposition through music and the big numbers ("One Song Glory," "I'll Cover You" and the iconic "Seasons of Love") will move your heart. Angel's "Today 4 U" and Maureen's performance art parody "Over the Moon" are standouts.

BWW Review: RENT at Golden Gate Theatre
Angel ( Javon King) and Tom (Shafiq Hicks)

It's wonderful to see Larson's creation live on, touches of him can be seen in Roger's desire to write one last perfect song. Though Larson never lived to see the fruits of his work, dying tragically the night before the off-Broadway opening in 1996, generations will bear witness to his immense talent. If you haven't seen Rent, make this your opportunity.

Rent runs through December 12th, 2021. Tickets can be purchased at online (at

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

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