Since its humble, off-Broadway beginnings 20 years ago, the beloved musical, Rent, with book, music, and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, has only grown in popularity. It is fitting, then, that the 20th Anniversary Tour, gracing the stage now at DPAC, would bring this story to life for both new and long-time fans alike in a slightly re-imagined and even more fabulous way.
The current production, under the direction of Evan Ensign based on the original direction of Michael Greif, is everything Rent-heads could ever want it to be. From main character/semi-narrator Mark’s (Danny Harris Kornfeld) wonderfully-gritty industrial apartment set to the practically-perfect casting, this production is enough to make people fall in love with Rent all over again or even for the very first time.
For those ”first-timers” out there, the story focuses on a group of interconnected, young, struggling artists living in New York City. The story could be about any group of bohemian twenty-somethings, except for the fact that many of these characters are suffering from AIDs. That- the fact that the story involves the disease without making it the central focus- is part of the brilliance of Rent. These characters are real, full, and imagined, and they would be without the disease element to the plot; that element serves only to add an extra layer of meaning, drama, and poignancy to the one year scope focused on during the course of the story.
At the center of it all is the aforementioned Mark, a documentary-maker who works hard to chronicle this year with his friends and the beautiful and not-so-beautiful moments in their lives. Kornfeld does a good job as the level-headed, somewhat distant Mark, never overshadowing the other, richly developed characters in the story.
Scruffy Kaleb Wells makes for a perfect Roger, Mark’s musically-inclined roommate. He nails one of the show’s most celebrated musical numbers- “One Song Glory”-with his earthy, soulful voice. Wells also shares nice chemistry with the vivacious, highly-energetic Skyler Volpe,who gives a wild-eyed performance as Roger’s troubled love interest, Mimi, and does a great job with the fun “Out Tonight” number. Other standouts in the cast include Aaron Harrington as the likeable, somewhat-rebellious Tom Collins and David Merino as Tom’s oh-so-fabulous love interest, Angel. Together, these two actors bring a sweet complexity to what is arguably the most touching romantic relationship in the story.
Aside from the stellar performances,one of the best things about this particular production is that it doesn’t rely on super high-tech special effects or jaw-dropping choreography. Yes, there are some nice moves, a nice set, and the other touches that make for a strong production, but the really great thing here is that the performances themselves, and, even more importantly, this powerful script that has stood the test of time are allowed to shine fully.
With a story this good and with characters so fully realized, there is no reason to hide behind extravagances. Ensign’s greatest strength as a director is that he realizes this fact and allows viewers to clearly see that this musical is just as relevant and wonderful as it was twenty years ago.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents RENT: 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR at 8 p.m. Oct. 14, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 15, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $30-$135. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/844066.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
TOUR CAST/CREATIVE TEAM: http://rentontour.net/#s-company.
DPAC‘S SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2016-17.
Rent (Off-Broadway and Broadway and 1998 West End rock opera): http://www.mtishows.com/rent (Music Theatre International), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/534 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/rent-7448 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Jonathan Larson (White Plains, NY-born composer, lyricist, and playwright, 1960-96): http://swirsky.tripod.com/jonathan.html (unofficial site by Chris Matthias), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/938 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jonathan-larson-6927 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1170227/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Larson (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: https://www.denvercenter.org/docs/default-source/Show-Study-Guides/all-study-guides/rent-study-guide.pdf (Denver Center for the Performing Arts).
Rent (2005 film): http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/rent/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0294870/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.