I don’t like going to the Golden Gate Theatre. It’s in a drab part of San Francisco. Not so bad during the daytime, but I would not go there during the evening hours. On July 30, 2006, I decided to check out a matinee showing of Rent. I took the BART from my apartment to downtown San Francisco. The irony was that the filmed version of Rent was shot in this part of San Francisco’s SOMA and Tenderloin districts. The other downside of the Golden Gate Theatre is the acoustics. I’ve seen Mama Mia! and Evita at Golden Gate and unless you knew all the words in the libretto, you would be completely lost. This is my second time seeing the Jonathan Larsen hit show. The audience was made of younger 20somethings; a stark contrast to when I saw the show on Broadway wherein it had an older, formal audience.
I feel that Rent is a very ensemble driven piece; the actors need to be as powerful as the story that they are trying to convey. The story takes place in a year in a life of young New York City bohemians – most of which have contracted AIDS and living one day at a time. Rent has met criticism whether or not people battle with AIDS is relevant or if we should be sympathizing with early 90s hipsters. To me, the overarching theme is not AIDS awareness – we know it exists. The theme can be best found in “Seasons of Love” – measure your life in love.
The ensemble in this touring cast was awesome. Tracy McDowell (Maureen) and Chante Carmel Frierson (Joanne)’s “Take More or Leave Me” was practically flawless. I usually skip this song on the cast recording, but their interpretation got my attention on every word. Bryce Ryness (Roger)’s “One Song Glory” was the best rendition I have heard up to that point. Jahmal Adderley(Angel understudy) and Warren G. Nolan Jr. (Tom) had perfect chemistry: “Santa Fe” and “I’ll Cover You” were very well done. Both had a very tongue and cheek relationship; very cute. However, my favorite performance had to go with Arianda Fernandez (Mimi). She was fierce and her vocals were very reminiscent of an 80s / early 90s pop singer at the time. Her on stage chemistry with Bryce made me tear up, particularly during “Without You.”
What I enjoyed about this production was the show was driven by the raw emotion by the actors. This is what makes Rent worth seeing on stage. At the time, the film version was already on home video. The film lacks the emotional powerhouse that is seeing the show live. My only nitpick is that people in the audience were laughing during Angel’s funeral. I knew the characters had something silly or funny to say about Angel, I always thought it was one of the more serious parts of the show.
Overall, I enjoyed this 2006 touring cast. It was finally nice to enjoy Rent with an audience who can appreciate the themes and are perhaps living the story of these artists. If you consider yourself a Renthead, see Rent on stage. Save your pennies and line up for student rush. Touring productions are tough to come by since the show is no longer on Broadway. While the movie does have some fine performances by the original cast, nothing can replace seeing Rent live.
erica @ scarlet-rhapsody.com