Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rent: Utah Repertory Theater Company

Way, way back many centuries (days) ago, I caught Utah Rep's last evening performance of Rent.  They even went out of their way to make sure we had police escorts to leave the building that night.  I kid.  Ends up they faced their own true version of "Rent" because the entity renting them the building didn't get the odd's and end's properly straightened out and they were being "evicted" so-to-speak.  Thankfully, the police let this modern day version of "La Boheme" endure to the end.

First and foremost, I want to start a controversy with two words: Audience Interaction.
Love/hate.  Right?
For me, as an actor or an audience member, this always makes me feel uncomfortable.  I participate as instructed or prompted, either way, I just don't like it.  As an audience member, I go to a show to let the actors take me to another world so I can escape from reality and whatever burdens are weighing on my mind.  The last thing I want to do is interact with a person who isn't even a person I can ever talk with or associate with again - it is a character played by an actor.  I feel dread and panic - not knowing what to say or do...because if this person is acting, shouldn't I too?  Wait...no I shouldn't....yes I should...ugh.   As an actor, I wonder if that audience member feels the same way I do when an actor approaches me in the audience.  That being said, if audience interaction has to happen, this troupe did a fine job of staying in character.

I must have been really into the show (or freezing because the warehouse setting was brrrrrr), because I only made a few notes.
  • Intro too long
  • The entire cast entered on the number "Rent," but why?  The setting is in the apartment of Roger and Mark...are there just vagrants wandering in and out of their place? 
  • The volume on the mics was overpowering and the chorus could not battle that sound.  The soloists were mic'd quite well, but then the chorus number seemed underwhelming because of the sound differential.
  • Angel and Collins were absolutely adorable together!
  • Mark was amazing, his pants were not
  • Mimi's solo number had "single ladies-esque" backup dancers.  This was a cool production element, yet I can't help but remember the vision of this being Mimi's big "coming out" moment where she steals the show and we really learn who she is as a strong individual and the backup dancers distracted from her strength.
  • Mimi's solo impressed me because she was dancing her tail off and wasn't winded in the least - way to go!
  • The entire cast, ensemble included, are amazing soloists - each person continued to blow me away in their own unique style.
  • Alex, Alex, Alex.  His voice could melt butter.  He continues to grow as an actor while his voice is what wins audiences again and again.
  • I loved the ambition of the musical director with the new harmonies in the songs.  Some worked, some didn't.
  • During La Vie Boheme, there was a very clever staging of a "Last Supper" scene - I dug it.
  • The staging of "Without You" was touching and extremely well executed.  The choreography allowed each aids patient to leave the stage one by one throughout the song - leaving Angle in the end.  I loved the symbolism behind this vision.
I'll sum this up with the words of  Director and Choreographer, William Cooper Howell, "We cannot control what passions and feelings we are brought into this world with.  However, we can control what we do with the gifts and feelings we are given.  We have the power within us to change the world around us with our love and our light.  May you leave here tonight infused with the need to express, to communicate, at all times, for any reason.  Change is in your grasp.  No Day But Today."

Roger Davis - Trent English
Mark Cohen - Austin Archer
Tom Collins - Aleksndr Arteaga
Benjamin Coffin III - Sean Carter
Joanne Jefferson - Nneka Barcelona
Angel Schunard - Derek Gregerson
Mimi - Connor Norton
Maureen - Karli Rose Lowry
Ensemble
William Cooper Howell - Choreographer
Rick Rea - Musical Director



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