If there was musical crack for theatre, it would be the musical RENT, a rock musical with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York City’s Lower East Side in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. One of the haunting back stories with RENT is that the show’s creator, Jonathan Larson, died suddenly the night before the Off-Broadway premiere. The show went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, and the production was a hit. The musical moved to Broadway’s larger Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996. On Broadway, RENT gained critical acclaim and won a Tony Award for Best Musical, among other awards. The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008 after a 12-year run of 5,123 performances, the tenth longest-running Broadway show at the time.
Currently at Tri-C West, Director Pierre Jacques-Brault, of Mercury Summer Stock fame, takes on the classic piece of rock-out, in your face, bohemian madness. Musical Director Joanna Li leads a kick-ass band. But I have to take a moment here and talk about the technical elements of the show, because they are outstanding. THIS SET AND LIGHTING DESIGN! It is like Trad Burns had a litter of technical puppies, they all grew up to be individual adult artists on their own, and they all worked together on this project. The set is stunning. Pierre’s vision and the technical staff have created one of the most spectacular set and lighting adventures I have seen in a long time. So let me go off for a moment and thank Scenic Designer Brad Bunn and Lighting Designer Rob Wachala (Asst. Lighting Designer Dave Krupla) for getting me so excited I had to sneak flavored water into the theatre for Act 2.
RENT is a musical that demands performances come from deep inside and actor’s soul. And in this production, the women take the bigger slice of the RENT cake. Chloe Mlinarcik as Joanne and Kennedy Ellis as Maureen provide some great Doc Martin drama and vocal realness. Madeline Krucek as Mimi gives everything she has, as she navigates the perilous flight of love and drug addiction. And Christina Ciofani as Mrs. Cohen and the Seasons of Love soloist is both a blast and a powerhouse.
Tommy Ammen Sulie (Benjamin Coffin III) arrives on stage in complete confidence, the first to do so, with energy and a persona to be reckoned with. Anthony Covatta (Tom Collins) gives great honesty, and his lead in the Act 2 reprise of “I’ll Cover You” will stir your soul. Nick Bailey (Roger Davis) should be prepared to have a rock star reaction in the lobby, having edgy handsome looks, and a fierce voice to attack the material. The only distraction is placing his hands in his back pockets a lot, seeming uncomfortable. But his presence and voice dominate the proceedings. Alex Boyd (the iconic role of Angel Dumott Schunard) attacks the role with a gifted voice and supreme confidence. But this role was cast very young, and hinders having a connection with a fiery sexual streetwise cross dresser. But that doesn’t stop Boyd from taking names and making Angel his own. Matthew Smetana (Mark Cohen) is an awkward presence as needed, and provides entertaining narrative to the journey.
The rest of the cast (Nick Alder, Josh Baum, Klara Hricik, Morgan Noonan, Emily Plank, and Jacob Schafer) hop on the RENT bus and, like the movie “Speed,” it doesn’t stop for anything. Great vocals, movement and enthusiasm.
Let us not forget Producer Robert Ellis (your tech staff brings all the talent to your yard), Costume Designer Jackie Guerra (solid work), Sound Engineer Eric Simna (great balance), Stage Manager Terrii Wachala (calling a great show) and Asst. Stage Manager Ellen Nicole Morales.
No day but today.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
April 11 – April 19
8pm Thursday, Friday, Saturday
$10-$12 General Admission
Order Tickets Online
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Parma, OH 44130