REVIEW: RENT the 20th Anniversary Tour
at The Denver Center
by Emilee Hatfield
It isn’t very hard to convince any theatre lover of the relevance and importance ihe musical RENT had when it opened in the 90’s. It changed the way we looked at musical theatre. Up till then, I would say that Broadway musicals were a bit more classical. RENT brought rock, angst, and current gay and lesbian issues to life in the theatre, and introduced just how involved a cast can be.
The question still arose in my mind as I entered the Buell Theatre of the Denver Center Complex “Has this show that is almost as old as me hold up all these years later?” Having never seen the live version of this show, I was ready to have this burning question be answered with this 20th Anniversary National Tour. This was confidently and satisfyingly answered within the ﬁrst song. What makes Rent so unique in the beginning is it’s opening. There isn’t an orchestra practicing beforehand, there is no overture or signal that the show is about to begin. It is simply the character of Roger walking in; no announcement or anything’ just him plugging in his guitar and testing it out. It is only then that the cast members rush out taking their spots to begin the show. This causes the audience to erupt in celebration. What caught my eye is that the lights of the theatre do not dim until the character Mark signals for them to dimmed by simply uttering, “Smile!” as he turns on his tape recorder. It is with this detail that a bit of character is added to the overall atmosphere of the show.
From that point on we are introduced to an array of characters that make up Roger and Mark’s bohemian family; Collins, Angel, Maureen, Mimi, Benny and Joanne; each character having distinct personality and behavior. While every actor performed wonderfully, I must point out one of the highlight performances was by one Lyndie Moe in the role of Maureen. At just 19 years old she takes on a role that was originated by the great Idina Menzel and still manages to add such individuality and hilarity to it that commands your attention. You can clearly tell the production team took its time when choosing this cast, the emotion that radiates from them during their performance of Seasons of Love, caused I believe almost the entire audience in the orchestra to begin sniﬄing by the end.
I was a bit concerned though when I read in the program there would be slight changes when comparing it to the original version that was directed by Michael Grief. However the director Evan Ensign did very well with what little changes were made. Angel’s costume during his most well known number, “Today for U,” is very well done. Costume designer Angela Wendt did a fantastic job staying close to the original designs of his most well known costume while adding just a touch of ﬂair and modernization to bring it into the present.
With only slight changes made, this 20th anniversary tour of RENT keeps true to its roots bringing its message to a new generation and allowing previous ones to come and enjoy it once again. Its relevance seems to be growing stronger despite the era it is set in. People still connect with these characters in this emotionally charged musical. By the end of the ﬁnal song, many people around me were crying, smiling, or appeared to be making a connection with these characters as they have decided to live everyday as if it were their last. Rent shows what life can do to us, what struggles we must face, and how a group of friends try to overcome their trials and tribulations in New York City.
While Rent still isn’t my favorite show, comparing it to others is have seen; I will praise this production for its honesty, and talented cast. It’s powerful message is why any musical theatre lover should see this show at least once. It will give a unique perspective on just how powerful theatre can be, and why RENT started a new era in musical theatre.
RENT 20th Anniversary Tour plays The Buell Theatre November 14-21. Tickets are on sale now at www.denvercenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Carol Rosegg