Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rent Theatre Review

The Company of the RENT 20th Anniversary Tour, at National Theatre (Photo: Carol Rosegg)

Born to Be Bad Good

Benny (Christian Thompson) declares, "Bohemia is dead." Maybe, but there's still plenty of life in Rent, as evidenced by its 20th Anniversary Tour, which just opened a five-day engagement at the National Theatre. Jonathan Larson's beloved rock musical has earned four Tonys (including Best Musical) a Pulitzer Prize and a motion picture adaptation. Lofty praise, but until last night, I never considered myself a fan (yet alone a Renthead.) Evan Ensign (and choreographer Marlies Yearby) managed to do, what three prior live performances failed to... make it fun. The show remains full of heavy material (death, drugs, homelessness) but it no longer overshadows the human side of Rent.

202 Words or Less

Credit a solid cast (featuring some sterling accomplishments) for changing my tune. Tops amongst them... Kaleb Wells and Skyler Volpe as Roger & Mimi, and a magnetic David Merino as Angel. Combined, they deliver enough energy & enthusiasm for the entire company. Unfortunately, when they're not on stage, the production slows down considerably (save for a short but sweet "We're OK," ably performed by Jasmine Easler.) Paul Clay's set design works well, especially the Transformers-like metallic hodgepodge on the right side; but in the end, it's the high-octane 20-something cast that wins you over.


Rent runs 2½ hours with a 15-minute intermission, now through June 25 at the National Theatre (1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.) Tickets start at $48, and are available for purchase online or by calling 1(800) 514-3849.