by Jessica Yen
RENT by Jonathan Larson is an iconic Broadway show that since its première in 1996 has enjoyed long runs on Broadway, has been produced worldwide and adapted into a film. This rock opera based on Puccini's La Bohème tells the story of young artists struggling to live in New York's Lower East Side under the difficulties of poverty and HIV/AIDS. A show with this much legacy begs for new interpretations especially since it has been over 15 years since the original production. Unfortunately, the LOT's presentation of RENT lacks inspiration and falls victim to clichés.
While the Ensemble is strong and vocally the cast impresses, performances are inconsistent and principal characters are one dimensional. It was disappointing that Mimi and Roger, one of the three couples in the production, came across as self indulgent, selfish characters with a sense of entitlement that made them wholly unlikeable. Adam Proulx was swinging as Mark, and carried many a scene with commitment and refreshing energy. Antonio Olivito plays a cunningly charming Benny. Maureen a performance artist who protests against the gentrification of the Alphabet city was played by Marissa Dingle; while Dingle is a vocal powerhouse, her rendition of “Over The Moon” which is meant to act as a call to revolution lost its power in her choice to play it campy. Kevin Vidal and Phil Skala were magnetic as Collins and Angel. Their chemistry was wonderful to watch and their numbers were highlights within the production.
In general, this production of RENT lacked grit and the desperation of the world that Larson's musical lives in. Choreography was generic and especially during “Out Tonight” some performers looked uncomfortable with the movement. Large ensemble numbers kept the production afloat, “Seasons of Love” performed as it is known, in a single line across the stage was beautiful in its simplicity. The cast as a collective fill the space with heart and energy.
RENT takes place in a dangerous time; Larson's characters face eviction, failing relationships, and a disease that ultimately forces them to lose one of their own; but unfortunately this production chose to play it safe.