By Tom DeMars
TADA Theatre, Friday June 10, 7:30PM
Tada theater has once again used the theater’s intimate setting to put on a blockbuster musical with a large cast, creating an emotionally powerful show that pulls the audience in, almost as another cast member, allowing the audience to share the experiences of this talented group. The show’s powerful songs uplift and can emotionally drain the audience as they become personally involved in the show.
Rent follows a year in the lives of a diverse group of artists and friends struggling to survive without selling out. It centers on Mark Cohen (Drew Sinnard), a budding filmmaker from Scarsdale, and his loft roommate Roger Davis (William Hastreiter), a musician whose spark for creativity and for life are ravaged by his drug past and his diagnosis as HIV positive. Mark is the “narrator” of “Rent” and his ferocity resonates in the title tune. Roger, on the other hand, is Mark’s polar opposite. He is avoiding going out, looking for a reason to stay alive and for that one song that would become a hit (“One Song Glory”). Roger finds his reason to survive with Mimi (Rachael Washington) who, despite her own drug addiction and HIV-positive diagnosis, pursues Roger with tireless determination and with a poignancy heard in the tender “Light My Candle.” Her charisma is strong and there is a powerful chemistry between the two that initially pulls them together and at times, pushes them apart.
The character of Angel, presented as a drag queen, was an absolute audience favorite, and Michael Booton is top-notch in the role. He is complemented by the rich-voiced Daniel Ikpeama as his lover Tom Collins, whose powerful voice is impressive whenever he is featured.
The side plot of “Rent,” about defying former tenant Benjamin Coffin’s (Jayven Brandt) redevelopment plan, which introduces bi performance artist Maureen Johnson. Cece Hastreiter in the part is at full throttle and full volume for most of the musical. Her big song “Over the Moon” is, by design, over the top.
The show’s most popular and well-known song, “Seasons of Love,” is performed beautifully and highlights not only Ikpeama, but Angelia Onuoha shows her musical chops in the soprano solo portion of the song. The audience was lip syncing and swaying throughout the number.
The lighting is handled wonderfully. There is a warning that strobe lights will be used (as a method to simulate a film projector running). The Scene design works very well in the hands of Jenna Williamson, Scenic Designer, and Jon Kruse, Tech Coordinator and Scene Painter.
The Director, Bob Rook, has once again assembled an awesome cast and created a show highlighting their talents and capabilities. His take on Rent is “it is a show that on the surface, focuses on the AIDS pandemic, but is far more than that. It is a show that focuses just as much on “total acceptance,” no matter who you are, what you believe, your ethnicity, or your financial status – a message as important today as it was the day it was first produced.” Rook indicated he had received over 77 video auditions for the cast. He did an excellent job in whittling it down to select this terrific cast.
It will be worth your while to make the effort to see this show. You will not be disappointed!
If you go: Rent is running Thursday-Sunday through June 26th. Several shows have sold out, but as of this date, tickets remain for shows June 17, June 18 (2), June 19, June 24, June 25 (2), and June 26. Shows are at 7:30 on Thurs-Sat, with an additional matinee show on Saturday at 2:00. Sunday’s shows are at 2:00. Tickets can be reserved at https://www.tadaproductions.info
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