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RENT

RENT

National Tour
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson

Bass Hall, Fort Worth

Director – Evan Ensign
Music Director – Matthew DeMaria
Choreographer – Marlies Yearby
Music Supervision and Additional Arrangements – Tim Weil
Stage Manager – Katy Herman
Costume Design – Angela Wendt
Set Design – Paul Clay
Sound Design – Keith Caggiano
Lighting Design – Jonathan Spencer
Musical Arrangements – Steve Skinner

CAST

Roger Davis – Kaleb Wells
Mark Cohen – Sammy Ferber
Tom Collins – Aaron Harrington
Benjamin Coffin III – Marcus John
Joanne Jefferson – Jasmine Easler
Angel Schunard – Aaron Alcaraz
Mimi Marquez – Skylar Volpe
Maureen Johnson – Lyndie Moe
Mark's Mom and others – Yeal Reich
Christmas Caroler, Mr. Jefferson, Pastor and others – Cameron Mullin
Mrs. Jefferson, Woman w/ bags and others – Alana Cauthen
Gordon, The Man, Mr. Grey and others – Jordon Dunn-Pilz
Steve, Man with Squeegee, a Waiter and others – Jordon Long
Paul and others – Devin J. Hall
Alexi Darling, Roger's Mom and others – Chrissy Naruo

SWINGS

Logan Farine, Devrinre' Adams, Ashley De La Rosa, Felix Marchany, Paola Hernandez


ORCHESTRA
Conductor/Keyboards - Matthew DeMaria
Asst. Conductor/Keyboards/Guitar - Paul O'Keefe
Guitar – David Malachowski
Bass – Thomas Brinkley
Drums – Jeff Snider


Reviewed Performance: 10/17/2017

Reviewed by Richard P. Buswold, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

RENT, one of the most notorius American Musicals of the past half century continues its 20th Anniversary tour this week at the Bass Hall in Fort Worth. The show originally opened April 29 1996 at the Netherlander Theatre on Broadway. Jonathan Larson (book, music and lyrics) reimagined Puccini’s "La Bohème" and set it in NYC during the end of the millennium and the nearing the end of the 'crisis' period of AIDS. RENT follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. Its message of joy and hope in the face of fear, celebration of friendship and creativity reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters—love.

This is the same touring company that stopped at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas in September of 2016 but some key roles have changed hands. Sammy Ferber has taken over as Mark Cohen, the aspiring filmmaker and central character of the show. Sammy is such a ball of energy from the opening scene to the end of the show. His vocals are powerful and emotional and meaningful as Mark struggles with selling out for the sake of his art. It is his documentary of six of his friends that is the basis of everything in the show and Sammy serves perfectly as the focal point of the show.

Keleb Wells and Skylar Volpe are still working beautifully together as Roger and Mimi, the lovers struggling with AIDS and addiction and each other. Their first meeting during the song "Light my Candle" is flirtatious and simultaneously sexy and sweet. I truly enjoyed watching the growth, collapse and then re-birth of their relationship. A deeply meaningful commentary on what loving somebody should be is brought out by these actors performances.

Aaron Alcaraz has joined this tour as Angel Dumott Schunard, the drumming drag queen who makes his/her living performing on the street and, well, let's say certain profitable odd jobs. Poor Evita fall down go boom. Aaron possesses all the sass you would think a drag queen should have and "Today 4 U" is the first high energy number of the show and he pulls it off with abandon. Definitely a great addition to this cast.

Lyndie Moe has taken over the role of Maureen deftly playing off Jasmine Easler as her lover, the lawyer from an upper-class family, Joanne. Their chemistry is not as strong as Wells' and Volpe's but their vocals are top-of-the-charts. Their shining moment came during the highlight song "Take Me or Leave Me" in the second act. And to be honest, it was far less of a highlight than it could have been. It was good. A solid performance of a great song it just wasn't as good as it could (or should) have been.

You might have noticed that I left out the Tom Collins character when talking about the couples' relationships. That is only because I needed to dedicate an entire paragraph to the man that plays him, Aaron Harrington.

Oh-em-gee.

Aaron has been with the tour from the beginning for good reason. He is a tall, very good-looking man with a baritone voice like buttah. My wife, who accompanied me last night, remarked something to the effect of being perfectly content to listen to him read a phone book. It doesn't hurt much that he plays Tom with such fully truthful emotion that you hurt when he hurts and you're happy when he's happy. And then he sings. He opens his mouth and that smooth-as-silk baritone fills the Bass Hall and the entire female population of the audience (and a good portion of the men as well) swoon visibly with his words. During the reprise of "I'll Cover You" in the second act, many tears were shed all around me as he lamented the death of his love, Angel. I know this is supposed to be an ensemble piece for the most part but in my opinion, the standout performance is that of Aaron Harrington.

Another small but very standout performance was that of Alana Cauthen. She is the soloist featured in "Seasons of Love", the song most associated with RENT that opens the second act. Just wow. She commanded the stage, hit the trills and high notes with ease and received thunderous applause for her effort.

One thing I have noticed with tours as of late is that they have a box set. what I mean by that is the sets have to fit on several different sized stages on different days so there has been a trend to make one size set to fit on the smallest stage on the tour and then just cover the sides and tops with drapes on the larger stages. When companies do that it takes away from the whole "Broadway" experience. Thankfully the design team on this tour did not do that. RENT takes place in an industrial flat so the stage is populated with scaffolding, steel tables, iron poles and strings of Christmas lights that serve both as Christmas decorations (the entire first act takes place from Christmas Eve though Christmas Day) but also as what probably was the roommate's source of light for the rest of the year. The lighting on the stage gave off interesting shadows and made for great sightlines as well. What I didn't like, and never will, is that the orchestra is so miked and balanced through the sound system that it sounds canned. You know it's not because they're sitting right there on the stage tucked under a platform but the sound doesn't come from the stage as much as it comes through the speakers. I will always long for the days of the orchestra, unmiked, coming out of a pit with the actors signing over it.

RENT became a phenomenon in 1996 and was recognized with four Tony wins from ten nominations including Best Musical, six Drama Desk awards and the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Yes, it really is that good. It is that good because of the music, but also the message it has about love and acceptance through the portrayal of artists that pervade New York City and really most other big cities as well. The message hasn't changed and sadly neither has the societal climate that our seven friends are battling against. Truly, if you want to experience one of the best shows Broadway has, go see this production because this cast is outstanding.

RENT plays through October 22nd at the Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth

Evening Curtain 7:30
Weekend Matinee 1:30
Sunday, October 22 @ 6:30

Tickets $55 - $115
To purchase tickets got to www.basshall.com/tickets
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