Theatre Review: See RENT This Weekend at the Fabulous Fox
The 20th Anniversary Tour of RENT is back this weekend at The Fabulous Fox.
Going on almost 25 years since the show’s debut in 1996, Jonathan Larson’s message is still as strong as it was back then – and perhaps more relevant than ever. RENT is a story of love, acceptance, loss, and celebrating the family you get to choose.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard the music of RENT, seen the show, watched the movie, or even witnessed the recorded Broadway or live on Fox versions. The songs are unforgettable, with hit after hit comprising the beloved musical. Seeing RENT live is like going to a rock concert and seeing a play all rolled into one. If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend it.
The show got off to a bit of a rocky start, with the audio turned up way too loud and the vocals seeming a bit distorted. It’s a weekend show, in and out in a few days, so it’s understandable that it might take a few songs to fine tune things. Luckily the audio seemed to work itself out as the show went on, and everything clicked into place as expected.
This touring cast is strong, with several standouts including Cody Jenkins as Mark, Aiyana Smash as Mimi, Samantha Mbolekwa as Joanne, and Kelsee Sweigard as Maureen. These actors gave an exceptional performance, embodying these characters with the energy and truthfulness one would hope for. Jenkins gave one of the best renditions of “La Vie Bohème” I’ve ever seen, and ditto for Sweigard and her hilarious version of “Over the Moon.” Meanwhile, Mbolekwa and Sweigard had terrific chemistry during “Take Me or Leave Me,” and Smash absolutely crushed her performance of “Take Me Out Tonight.”
Coleman Cummings as Roger has a great voice, but there were times where I wasn’t feeling the truth behind his character – especially in the beginning when being introduced to his story in “One Song Glory.” He’s a complex character, and dealing with a lot of difficult emotions throughout the show. Luckily it did improve as time went on, and I thought his duet with Smash was great for “Without You.” I’m also a sucker for “What You Own,” where he and Jenkins were great. The two roomates had a good chemistry throughout the evening.
Joshua Tavares is fantastic as Angel, and gave an impressive display of physicality during “Today 4 U,” jumping from floor to table and just generally giving it his all. And Shafiq Hicks makes a charismatic Tom Collins, showcasing his range with a heartbreaking rendition of the “I’ll Cover You” reprise. Both of these actors were wonderful together, in perhaps the show’s most believable showcase of the love their characters share.
There’s also a wonderful ensemble featuring Rayla Garske, Zare Anguay, Lexi Greene, and many other talented actors.
The band sounded fantastic all evening, lead by Music Supervisor Tim Weil. As I mentioned previously, one of the reasons you see the show is for the non-stop array of hits, and the production doesn’t disappoint.
The costumes by Angela Wendt stay true to the original show, and Matthew Maraffi’s adaptation of Paul Clay’s sets is terrific.
If you love RENT, go see this show. If you’ve never seen it before, what are you waiting for. There’s a reason the show has been beloved by audiences all around the world for over two decades, and has solidified itself as one of the best musicals of all time. The tour features an excellent cast, great music, and speaks to everything the show was founded on.