The Company of the RENT 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour
RENT 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour, Credit Carol Rosegg
Jonathan Larson’s Rent has been impacting audiences for over two decades now. And yet, the 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour, onstage now at Durham Performing Arts Center, proves that there are still new things to be discovered in this story about love, loss, and the power of living in the moment.
Furthermore, the show still has something to say to new viewers. Despite being set in 1990s New York City and loaded with old-school references, its themes are so human, so universal, that it’s not just “any passing fad.”
This particular production, directed by Evan Ensign based on Michael Greif’s original direction, benefits not just from the enduring script, but from a high-energy cast, incredible talent, and a sense of joy that pervades the inevitable sadness.
Clad in 90s sweaters and skirts, this cast is up for the challenge of taking viewers back in time without losing sight of the script’s modern-day relevance. Tommy Kaiser, filling in as “Roger” at the opening night performance, is a perfect example. His shadow-lit delivery of the usually heavy “One Song Glory” is so surprisingly tender and soulful that it will give you chills. His pairing with the opening night’s Mimi (Analise Rios) adds fiery, palpable chemistry. And, on the lighter side (kind of), Javon King offers up an Angel who is instantly charming, loveable, and backed by Marlies Yearby’s killer choreography.
Speaking of the choreography, nothing can beat the bumping, pounding, and utterly outrageous dance moves featured in “Out Tonight,” powerfully performed by a strong-voiced Rios. Despite being an understudy, this opening night performer was raring to go and added just the right zest to the role.
Then there’s Maureen, portrayed by Makenzie Rivera at the opening night performance. Under the modern, informed gaze, she appears as toxic as she always was, but more evidently so. However, Rivera manages to make the character human and understandable, especially in her ultra-humorous and surprisingly tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Over The Moon.” Plus, Shafiq Hicks’ loving, there-for-you Tom Collins adeptly hits every emotional note.
Heavy on both humor and somber reality, this production of Rent is a cathartic experience, one that reminds viewers of how far we’ve come . . . and how far we still have to go. Hurtful, healing, and powerful in new and surprising ways, this edition of Rent is paid in full.
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