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arts-culture>RENT Review
Posted 7/18/02

Theatre Review: RENT
by Maryanna Isakova


When you find yourself humming the tunes of a show you’ve seen, while picturing the scenes in your mind, for hours, days, weeks, and, in some cases, months after you’ve seen it, the performance must have been that good. This is how many young people today feel about Jonathan Larson’s Broadway musical RENT, an ebullient and riveting show whose music, plot, and performance are unforgettable.

RENT, a modern rock version of the 19th century Italian opera “La Boheme,” is set in New York’s East Village, where young people strive to make it in a world tinted a dingy gray by poverty, disease, and drugs. Thrust into the real world, they struggle to achieve their dreams, to battle AIDS, to find love, and even to pay their rent. As soon as you enter the theatre (the Nederlander Theatre by Times Square), and gaze at the stage, the plain, unadorned, street setting conveys the message that the story does not provide any rose-colored view of life. None of the characters has a perfect life story, except for maybe Joanne Jefferson, a successful Harvard graduate unencumbered by a lack of money or by AIDS. Pessimistic Roger, enthusiastic Angel, and troubled Mimi are afflicted by this disease, which gathers dark clouds over them while they strive to live for what they believe in: their dreams and their loves. Mark, just dumped by ex-girlfriend Maureen who turns out to be lesbian and leaves him for Joanne, is lost in the world, denying his inner feelings of failure and loneliness.

However, the show is far from being one big sob story. Among the dark problems, there are humorous and outright hilarious moments, as well as scenes that make you smile, to balance the many emotions experienced throughout the show. The uninhibited, exuberant nature of such characters as Maureen and Angel, a male drag queen with a kind heart, keep the audience entertained. In addition, there is that love-story flavor that entreats the viewer’s compassion and deeper involvement in the tale. At the close of many scenes, the uproar of applause and cheers from the audience proves their satisfaction and enjoyment.
The plot rocks on towards a semi-tragic, yet unexpectedly heartwarming and “good” ending, if one may call it that. The lasting memory left in the minds of much of the audience is undoubtedly that of just experiencing flawless acting, passionate singing, and a captivating production of a meaningful story very applicable to life.

As for the best and worst of RENT, both involve the music. The skilled vocals, especially of Karmine Alers (Mimi) and Sebastian Arcelus (Roger), coupled with the rock and roll acoustics, give the show its unique liveliness and make you feel, not just hear, the action and emotion. The only letdown of the performance, and critics such as Jonathan Richards of the London Theatre, as well as some audience members, agree, were its sometimes-messy musical pieces. At intervals, the viewer finds it difficult to make out the words of the songs or what exactly is going on and where because of the quick and multi-layered action. But perhaps the purpose of this is to create effect: with so many things going on at once and several characters singing their own parts simultaneously, the audience feels bombarded with all the action, as the director probably intended. However, that doesn’t cast too big of a shadow, because one can still enjoy the show with all the excitement.
RENT, proclaimed a smashing hit musical by many critics, has performed all over the world and continues to enjoy international success and fame. For all those ‘N’ Sync fans out there, beginning August 5th, Joey Fatone will play Mark on Broadway, which is a dream come true for him.
For more information on this musical, tickets, and video and sound previews of the show, be sure to visit RENT’s official website at: www.siteforrent.com.

Related Links:
The Main Site for Rent


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