Theatre Review: “RENT” @ Palo Alto Players, 04/30/10

There’s probably 525,600 things I could say about this production of RENT but to keep it short and simple: I thought this talented cast had some great moments yet somehow missed Jonathan Larson’s message that focuses on love, acceptance and to live in the now – “no day but today”.

The main reason I say that is because the direction/interpretation of the script was quite literal, emphasizing little moments that overplayed the scene, instead of focusing on those overarching thematic material. I wanted to empathize with the characters as I have done in the past but I never completely felt connected to any one character. The first time I saw RENT I couldn’t stop crying at the end of Act 2 but this time, I only felt a small twinge of sadness for Mimi (Danelle Maderios) and Roger (David Saber). Even though I didn’t fall in love with any of the main characters, I was still rooting for them at the end.

The highlight of the night was Maureen (Nicole Frydman) and Joanne’s (Victoria Morgan) electrifying song, “Take Me or Leave Me.” Their chemistry was spot-on and they both nailed it. Both performances by Frydman and Morgan were strong throughout the entire production. Frydman’s original approach to “Over the Moon” was funny and uniquely staged — a great number at the end of Act I. Morgan was also fantastic in “Tango Maureen” with Mark (Scott Fish). Fish easily held the show together with his narration and great stage presence.

I loved how scenic designer, Patrick Klein, took a new approach to the set, when he could have easily copied the same idea of the original Broadway production. I even really like how the band, directed by Matthew Mattei, was shrouded by glazed-over plexiglass overlooking the stage by about 10 feet on stage left. The only problem was the sound seemed to bounce off the back stage wall, instead of being projected out into the audience. Jonathan Larson’s original vision was to bring musical theatre to the MTV generation and without that deafening sound from the band, the raw energy and “MTV-sound” seemed to be missing.

If the audience’s reaction proved any point, it would be that they loved it. They were all rooting for the characters, just as I was. I just wanted to be more emotionally involved by the end of Act 2.

RENT is running till May 9th. Get more info, here.


6 thoughts on “Theatre Review: “RENT” @ Palo Alto Players, 04/30/10

  1. It’s amazing how we can all sit and watch the exact show and come out of the performance with totally different views. I thought Maureen’s “Over the Moon” was over the top. Take me or leave me was wonderful!! I did love the TANGO very much though. I thought Danielle Maderios was a FABULOUS as Mimi and caught myself looking forward to her returning to the stage, but wasn’t feeling it for Roger, although they did bring me to tears. You didn’t mention Angel, who I thought did a great job as well. Over all, great performance.

    1. I could see where you thought Maureen’s performance of “Over the Moon” was over-the-top. But, at the same time, I still believed it… so it worked for me.

      Danielle Maderios was fabulous and had a GREAT voice! Honestly, I think the moment was ruined for me at the end because the band (Guitar 2) was 3 measures ahead of Roger when he was singing “Your Eyes” (the drums also came in at the wrong spot) and I couldn’t concentrate on the story because the song was heading for a train wreck – luckily everyone got back on, but the moment was ruined for me. 😦 I heard it was the first time that had happened… so maybe it was a total fluke.

      Again, it was a great performance, but I just didn’t feel connected personally.

  2. I agree with Mindy that the show was great and cast was definitely connected. This review is coming from Spencer Williams who is playing Mark at a competing Theater Companies Rent this summer mind you… knowing that, the review makes more sense. lol.

    1. No one is in competition for anything here… We aren’t competing for tickets, I wasn’t competing for parts, they are totally separate productions. And we haven’t even started rehearsals, so there’s no comparison whatsoever in my review. Best part is I only know one person from my upcoming cast – so I have NO IDEA what my cast is going to bring to the table.

      I was solely – and ONLY – reviewing what I saw and felt.

      Now, I hope that makes more sense to you Bill.

      1. I think the point is more that these kinds of things are typically called out as potential “conflicts of interest” in a normal review. To hide the connection, innocent as it may be, seems insincere.

  3. I had read quite a few reviews that were “spot on” but this one I think the critic was not “spot on”. I personally thought Mimi and Roger were AMAZING (more Mimi than Roger because I felt Roger could’ve played more as a rocker and he does a weird thing with his hand in front that is distracting) and seems most the audience did as well since I could see and hear the sniffling in the second act and actually I heard some at the end of the first act. Definitely felt the connection and Mimi was hot (even as a drug addict). He also never mentioned one of the best songs in the entire show, “Seasons of Love” which was AMAZING as well. Really set the tone for the entire 2nd act which I prefered far more than the first act. Joann’s voice was amazing and Maureen’s voice sounded tired but was very good. Like the review above me, I did not care for “Over the Moon” and caught myself wanting it to be over already. I thought Mark did a GREAT job as well as Angel. Wasn’t a Collins fan but I think it was only because I was shocked at how different he was than the “original” Collins. My wife fell in love with all the characters, especially Mark, Mimi and Angel. I guess different strokes for different folks.

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