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.