Book, music, and lyrics by Jonathan Larson
North Texas Performing Arts Repertory Theatre
Roger Davis – Conor Clark
Mark Cohen – Kenneth Lane
Tom Collins – Octavian Lewis
Benjamin Coffin III (Benny) – MD Christian
Joanne Jefferson – Avery Baker
Angel Dumott Schunard – Dayton L. Wilson
Mimi Marquez – Leslie Navarro
Maureen Johnson – Jen Berros
Ensemble – Elliot Koch, Ty Hamilton, Brooke Matthews, Ricky Campitelli, Franklin Co, Patrick La Bruyere, Donye Robinson
Directors – Daniel Dean Miranda, Rachael Berros
Music Director – William Veer
Tango Consultant – Gavin Slater
Set Designer – Jo Alamares
Costume Designers – Daniel Dean Miranda, Rachael Berros
Reviewed Performance: 9/9/2022
Reviewed by Joel Gerard, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
RENT is a rock musical set in New York City in the 1990s and is loosely based on Puccini’s La Boheme. This rock opera follows young artists and musicians as they navigate relationships, conflicts, and love in a time when HIV/AIDS was an everyday concern.
Our central couple Roger and Mimi, played by Conor Clark and Leslie Navarro, both were excellent in their roles. Ms. Navarro was wonderful in Act II with her emotional scenes. Mr. Clark bears a striking resemblance to original Broadway cast member Adam Pascal. He beautifully sang “Your Eyes” and I was in tears. Their scenes together were always good.
Avery Baker and Jen Berros played Joanne and Maureen. Ms. Baker did a great job portraying Joanne’s frustrations dealing with Maureen and their relationship. Ms. Berros is a natural on stage. There was a burst of energy every time she entered a scene, and she gave 110% to the performance. “Over the Moon” was a real highlight because of her.
I really loved Dayton L. Wilson as Angel and Octavian Lewis as Collins. All of their scenes together were also particularly touching. Angel is a tough role, and Mr. Wilson was fearless in his portrayal. Dancing, singing, drumming, and jumping in heels, he commanded the stage and really made the audience fall in love with Angel. The big revelation was Mr. Lewis as Collins. His performance of “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” brought down the house! He got the loudest and longest applause for his solo. I suggest coming to see RENT to hear Mr. Lewis sing this song. It’s worth it.
Mark has always been my favorite role in the show, and Kenneth Lane did a great job. As narrator, he’s in a lot of scenes and songs and he is especially good in “Tango Maureen” and “La Vie Boheme.” MD Christian plays Benny and I really liked his voice. His singing voice is clear and robust with great diction.
Special recognition goes to the ensemble whom all played multiple roles and did it with ease. Great acting and wonderful vocals from the entire ensemble. Any one of them could have been a principal in this show. There was a really wonderful moment that stood out for me during the song “Will I?.” One ensemble actor was crying in her chair and then another actor kneeled down to comfort her. It was a real moment of vulnerability and tenderness that brought a new depth of emotion to that song.
Directors Daniel Dean-Miranda and Rachael Berros made some really smart choices for this production. There were two elements I noticed that were borrowed from the 2005 film version of RENT which was directed by Chris Columbus. During “Tango Maureen” Maureen herself walked onstage and did the tango with Mark and Joanne. It was a good way for us to see Maureen since she doesn’t typically enter until late in Act I. When Mark, Collins, and Angel sing “Santa Fe,” the ensemble uses chairs and two metal poles to imitate being on a subway. That was a smart use of the ensemble and visually creates a specificity to what life is like for these characters in New York City. There were several moments onstage when everything worked perfectly and I got goosebumps. The top 3 songs were “I’ll Cover You”, “Without You”, and “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)”. Everything just worked flawlessly during those songs and it was magic to watch.
Unfortunately, there were some technical problems on opening night. Body microphones were not working properly, light cues were late, and the music track was too loud and overpowered the actors. The actors in general started out stiff and nervous, but by Act II they had relaxed and found their rhythm. I would attribute most of these issues to opening night jitters. I think during the run of the show these issues will get worked out and will be less noticeable.
The set design by Jo Alamares is highly creative and practical. The upper tier of scaffolding was used wisely and the colorful graffiti on the back wall was bold and exciting. Black and white posters were a nice contrast to the rainbow of colors and words spray painted everywhere.
The costumes by Daniel Dean Miranda and Rachael Berros were one of the best elements of this production. The show takes place in the 1990s, and I really loved how specific the clothing choices were to that period. Mimi’s costumes in particular were really accurate and exciting. She had ripped tights, plaid and pleather skirts, an array of cool coats, and combat boots. I loved the inspired choice to have Maureen wear a cow print crop top during “Over The Moon.” In one scene, Joanne wore an outfit that looked exactly like something Ellen DeGeneres wore in the 90s. It was very “lesbian chic” back then. All the costumes evoked the 90s grunge era with great detail and thoughtfulness.
I enjoyed seeing RENT in an intimate production that really highlights the relationships at the core of the show. This is a diverse cast playing characters that are straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual. It’s wonderful to see a show about a cross-section of people who are trying to find themselves and learning that there’s no day but today.
NTPA Repertory Theatre
Willow Bend Center of the Arts
6121 W. Park Blvd B216, Plano, TX 75093
September 9th - 18th, 2022
Tickets: For dates, times and ticket information go to NTPA.org or call the box office at 972-853-7425.