Theatre Mirror Reviews - "RENT"

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide


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note: entire contents copyright 1996 by Jamie McGonnigal

"RENT is long overdue in Boston"

Book, Music & Lyrics By
Jonathan Larson

Directed By
Michael Grief

Musical Director-Jim Abbott
Set Design-Paul Clay
Sound Design-Kurt Fischer
Costume Design-Angela Wendt
Choreography-Marlies Yearby
Lighting Design-Blake Burba
Musical Arrangements-Steve Skinner
Original Concept/Additional Lyrics-Billy Aronson

Cristina Ablaza Stephan Alexander Christian Anderson C.C. Brown
Luther Creek Julie P. Danao D'Monroe Ray Garcia Carrie
Hamilton Sean Keller Sylvia MacCalla Lambert Moss John Eric
Parker Queen Esther James Rich Daniel J. Robbins Simone Amy
Spanger Schele Williams

It's here. RENT is open in Boston. Broadway's newest addition to the world of musical theatre has arrived in the Beantown. A small disclaimer: words alone simply cannot describe this production.

Boston is fast-becoming the home for many Broadway touring companies. Over a year ago, BLUE MAN GROUP opened in Boston and is still running. A CHORUS LINE just completed a one-week stay at the Wang Center. Anna Deveare Smith's critically acclaimed TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES 1992 is going to be at the Colonial, and Faye Dunaway recently opened in the Tony Award winning Best Play, MASTER CLASS. After a long theatrical drought, Boston is finally waking up to what the world of theatre has to offer.

If you have not already heard the story of how RENT got on it's feet and about the tragic loss of it's composer (from an aortic aneurysm) only twenty-four hours prior to it's Off-Broadway opening, then you've been living under a rock. The newspapers, magazines, television shows and every other media source imaginable has been talking about RENT. Some people argue that the show would not be as succesful, had there not been so much media hype surrounding the death of it's composer, Jonathan Larson. I disagree. This show is very clearly the most amazing work I have ever seen on a stage.

I am twenty-one years old, and perhaps this is one of the reasons I feel the way I do. Jonathan Larson had a dream to make theatre more accessible to my generation and the way of life I know. And it is so fulfilling to go into the Shubert Theatre in Boston for a "show" and see my generation taking up more than half of the audience. And to add to it, two hours before every performance,the first two rows of the theatre are sold for $20 to people who have formed a line outside the theatre in hopes to see something they normally could not afford. I asked a cast member why this was and she replied "It's what Jonathan wanted...Jonathan couldn't afford to sit in the front row either."

RENT has been called the "HAIR of the '90's." But one difference that I can make out is that RENT is not a protest. It shows you how people live, honestly, and how they deal with the life that has been given to them. One of the producers, Jeffrey Seller made the comment, "RENT has taken back the musical for young people who have felt out of touch with musicals, who don't think musicals have anything to do with their lives...And suddenly, here is a show that has everything to do with their lives."

RENT's book, music and lyrics were written by the late Jonathan Larson. Each note and every word is filled with passion. A passion for love, for unconditional love. With humor that comes only from truth. The music is also written in the same style as most "popular" music, in fact, you've probably heard some of the songs on the radio.

The cast of RENT is REAL and HONEST. They are you and me and everything in between. They obviously share the passion that the writer had for his work. And it shows. I was going to attempt to point out some individual performances, but I can't. This cast is an ensemble in every sense of the word. The voices soar through the theatre, creating the most glorious sounds ever to ring through the Shubert. The intricate beautiful harmonies are breathtaking. All the characters are filled with hope, regret, joy, hatred, beauty and love. These performances are carried off inspiringly, filling the audience with the emotions each of them portray. The solo work is absolutely compelling, every feeling at any given point during the show, is written on the actor's face. There is nothing more appealing in a performance than seeing a character's vulnerability, that's what makes them real, sharing their journey with each and every audience member. I cannot tell you what great difficulty I am having in finding the right words, but I can tell you that I have never been this moved by a performance.

RENT really isn't a show, it's an experience. And it must be seen to be believed. "There's only us. There's only this. Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other road. No other way. No day but today."

********Jamie McGonnigal*********

presented by:
Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Allan S. Gordon and
New York Theatre Workshop

At the Shubert Theatre

263 Tremont Street-Boston MA-02116

Tuesday through Saturday 8 PM
Sunday 7 PM
Saturday and Sunday 2 PM
Purchase tickets in person at the Shubert box office
or call (800) 447-7400

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide