Porchlight Music Theatre presents RENT.
The late Jonathan Larson (music, lyrics, book) penned an award-winning rock opera. RENT is a modern-day spin on Puccini’s “La Boheme.” Puccini imagined the real struggles of starving artists in 19th Century Paris. Larson sets his story in late 20th Century NYC. His bohemians are filmmakers, drummers, guitarists, erotic dancers, poets and philosophers. They are fighting capitalism, the AIDS epidemic and each other as they strive to have a relevant voice in all the noise. RENT is an artistic revolution that turns the gritty reality of poverty and a deadly virus into a war cry for community.
The show starts with projections on a curtain. Director Adrian Abel Azevedo creatively weaves in Mark’s (played by David Moreland) filmmaking footage. Moreland is regularly toting around a camera and capturing the rants and singing of the ensemble. The projections are shown on the main curtain or on a secondary screen within an oversized VHS tape. The blending of in-person and projections provides captivating humanity at different angles. The design team (Ann Davis-scenic, Smooch Medina-projections, Gregory Graham-costumes, Matthew R. Chase-sound, Maggie Fullilove-Nugent-lighting, Rowan Doe-properties) support Azevedo in the visual and audible storytelling. Azevedo fills the stage with talent and paces the action with fluidity.
This ensemble rocks! The personalities fill the theatre with unforgettable showstopping moments. In particular, the vivacious Lucy Godinez (Maureen) is marvelous in her “Over the Moon” protest song. Later, the defiant Godinez argues with the spirited Teressa LaGamba (Joanne) in “Take Me or Leave Me.” The heated duet is sexy and funny! LaGamba also spars with Moreland in “Tango: Maureen.” They sing and dance as they lament over girlfriend woes. The sparkling Josh Pablo Szabo (Angel) and steadfast Eric Lewis (Collins) share a tenderhearted connection in the beautiful “I’ll Cover You.” And the resigned Shraga D. Wasserman (Roger) and irresistible Alix Rhode (Mimi) continually flirt and fight with a smoldering connection in their duets.
Larson’s RENT is all about the music. Under the musical direction of Michael McBride and choreography of Laura Savage, the ensemble bring their A-game! “La Vie Boheme” and “Happy New Year” are big festive numbers celebrating the makeshift artistic community. And the ensemble opens the second act with a powerhouse “Seasons of Love” led by an impressive Bridget Adams-King. The soulful reflection counts down the 526,600 minutes in measurements of sunsets, cups of coffee and love. Gorgeous!
NOTE TO NEWBIES: I’ve seen “La Boheme” four times and “Rent” three times. It’s a complicated story. The first act moves especially fast with the introductions of several characters. Here’s a cheat sheet to review before showtime to support your experience:
Porchlight Music Theatre RENT program
RENT on Wikipedia
Netflix film tick, tick…BOOM!
Running Time: Two hours and forty-five minutes includes an intermission
Ruth Page Center, 1016 N. Dearborn
Based loosely on Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera “La Boheme”
Music, lyrics and book by Jonathan Larson
Directed by Adrian Abel Azevedo
Music directed by Dr. Michael McBride
Choreographed by Laura Savage
Thursdays at 1:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 3:30pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
EXTENDED Thru Dec 11th
Photography by Liz Lauren
For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago