DPAC Proves Rent Still Packs a Powerful Punch

The Durham Performing Arts Center will present five performances of Rent: The 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour, directedby Evan Ensign and choreographed by Marlies Yearby and Owen Johnston II, on Jan. 28-30 (photo by Carol Rosegg)
The Durham Performing Arts Center will present Rent: The 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour, directed by Evan Ensign and choreographed by Marlies Yearby and Owen Johnston, Jan. 28-30 (photo by Carol Rosegg)

Jonathan Larson’s Rent has been impacting audiences for over two decades now. And yet, Rent: The 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour, onstage now at Durham Performing Arts Center, proves that there are still new things to be discovered in this story about love, loss, and the power of living in the moment. Furthermore, the show still has something to say to new viewers. Despite being set in 1990s New York City and loaded with old-school references, its themes are so human, so universal, that it’s not just “any passing fad.”

This particular production, directed by Evan Ensign, based on Michael Greif’s original direction, benefits not just from the enduring script, but from a high-energy cast, incredible talent, and a sense of joy that pervades the inevitable sadness.

Aiyana Smash and Coleman Cummings star as Mimi and Roger (photo by Carol Rosegg)
Aiyana Smash & Coleman Cummings star as Mimi & Roger (photo by Carol Rosegg)

Clad in 1990s sweaters and skirts, this cast is up for the challenge of taking viewers back in time, without losing sight of the script’s modern-day relevance. Tommy Kaiser, filling in as Roger Davis at the opening-night performance, is a perfect example. His shadow-lit delivery of the usually heavy “One Song Glory” is so surprisingly tender and soulful that it will give you chills. His pairing with the opening night’s Mimi Márquez (Analise Rios) adds fiery, palpable chemistry. And, on the lighter side (kind of), Javon King offers up an Angel Schunard who is instantly charming, loveable, and backed by Marlies Yearby’s killer choreography.

Speaking of the choreography, nothing can beat the bumping, pounding, and utterly outrageous dance moves featured in “Out Tonight,” powerfully performed by a strong-voiced Rios. Despite being an understudy, this opening night performer was raring to go and added just the right zest to the role.

Rent stars Javon King and Shafiq Hicks as Angel Schunard and Tom Collins (photo by Carol Rosegg)

Then there’s Maureen Johnson, portrayed by Makenzie Rivera Friday night. Under the modern, informed gaze, she appears as toxic as she always was, but more evidently so. However, Rivera manages to make the character human and understandable, especially in her ultra-humorous and surprisingly tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Over the Moon.” Plus, Shafiq Hicks’ loving, there-for-you Tom Collins adeptly hits every emotional note.

Heavy on both humor and somber reality, this production of Rent is a cathartic experience, one that reminds viewers of how far we’ve come … and how far we still have to go. Hurtful, healing, and powerful in new and surprising ways, this edition of Rent is paid in full.

Lyndie Moe stars as Maureen Johnson (photo by Carol Rosegg)

Jonathan Larson’s RENT: THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY FAREWELL TOUR (In Person at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29th and 30th), presented as part of WRAL Greatest Hits of Broadway at DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham). VIDEOS: https://www.rentontour.net/media and https://www.youtube.com/c/RentOnTour. DPAC NEWS RELEASE: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/rent-the-25th-anniversary-farewell-tour-comes-to-dpac-january-28-30-2022. THE PRESENTER: https://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://www.instagram.com/DPACNC/, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and https://www.youtube.com/user/DPACLive. THE TOUR: https://www.rentontour.net/, https://www.worklightproductions.com/current-work/rent, https://www.facebook.com/RentOnTour/, https://www.instagram.com/RentOnTour/, https://twitter.com/RentOnTour, and https://www.youtube.com/RentOnTour. THE TOUR CAST & CREATIVE TEAM: https://rentontour.net/company. THE SHOW: https://www.mtishows.com/rent, http://www.iobdb.com/Production/534, https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/rent-7448, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_(musical). THE SCRIPT (excerpts): https://books.google.com/books. THE COMPOSER, LYRICIST, AND PLAYWRIGHT: http://www.iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/938, https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jonathan-larson-6927, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1170227/, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Larson. TICKETS: $38.50 and up, plus taxes and ticket fees. Click here to buy tickets. GROUPS (10+ tickets): 919-680-2787, Groups@DPACnc.com, and https://www.dpacnc.com/events/groups-services. DIRECTIONS: https://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions. PARKING: https://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking. DPAC COVID-19 REQUIREMENTS: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/vaccination-and-covid-19-test-requirements. INFORMATION: 919-680-2787 or CustomerService@DPACnc.com. Robert W. McDowell’s Review.

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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.triangleartsreview.com/, http://www.susiepotter.com, and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.

By Susie Potter

Susie Potter is a 2009 graduate of Meredith College where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina Statue University. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. 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. For more information visit SusiePotter.com.