It was a cold, rainy night on Oct. 30, but fans were queued out the doors of the Shubert Theater at the Boch Center to be seated for the 20th Anniversary tour of RENT. The original rock musical follows the story of seven young artists struggling to bear their ground during the social turmoil of New York’s ruthless city.
They face the economic pressure of living in such a crowded city and experience the damage of fighting AIDS. Together, they rejoice and find hope out of fear by realizing that what truly matters is love.
The show began with an informal start. The overhead lights of the theater were still on and people remained unseated. The actors casually made their way on stage which cued the blurred chatter of the audience to die down. One of the main characters, Mark Cohen (Cody Jenkins) opened the show and introduced the story. The lights immediately shut off, and the story started with a spotlight on Mark.
The opening scene was set on Christmas Eve. The set was intricate and rustic, with a mountainous scaffolding wrapped with lights to make it appear similar to a Christmas tree. There were other elements that created different levels of elevation, such as a staircase center stage that led to a balcony as well as other platforms above the main stage.
The first song that kicked off the show and introduced the plot was “Rent.” Dancers were found climbing either the stairs or the scaffolding, and the lights were glowing to create the grungy effect of the city. The performance was loud and rambunctious because of the different elements of choreography and the layers of voices within the performance. At the same time, though, it was effective in that it communicated the characters’ rebellion in paying rent and obeying any authority.
Although the roaring of the chorus was powerful, the volume of the instrumentals added another layer that made the entire song extremely loud—to the point of being unbearable for the size of the theater. Additionally, the physical placement of the speakers blocked the field of vision for audience members seated on the side of the theater, limiting them from seeing performances like “Tango: Maureen” and “Life Support.”
The choreography throughout the show was impressive, elaborate, and sexy. Joshua Tavares’ performance as Angel in “Today 4 U” was exhilarating and impressive. Angel’s character jumps on tables and chairs while simultaneously using drumsticks to play the furniture as instruments.
The choreography incorporated moves of balance, strength, and flexibility, and—most importantly—it was all done in platform heels. The performance of “La Vie Bohème” was provocative. An audience member said, “There was a lot going on there.”
As they moved into Act II, the famous “Seasons of Love” played out through the audience. The vocals of the chorus were amazing and moving. There were a few audio technical errors because one of the singer’s earrings was interfering with her microphone, however.
The show skips ahead to the spring as the characters’ relationships go through ups and downs. Angel is seen throughout the musical wearing extravagant, vibrant colored outfits with a wig and makeup. As Angel’s illness worsens, Angel wears all-white pajamas which show the downward progression of the disease. As they sing, Angel walks off the stage into a warm, glowing light. The scene in its entirety was stunning.
The last scene of the show is especially moving. Mark plays his footage of himself and his friends from the past year. A projector shows previously filmed footage of the cast, as well as the footage from an additional projector that Mark held. He pointed the projector onto a spherical lantern that hung above the stage, which created a second screen and provoked more emotion. Mark then points the projector around the theater onto the walls and audience members. It was a sensational aspect of the final scene that cultivated a heartwarming ending to the show.
RENT will still be playing until Nov. 10.
Featured Image by Amy Boyle