RENT: a timeless story


Photo by: LATF staff

Advertisement for the 20th anniversary tour.

Penny Joyce, Staff Writer

Twenty years ago, the world-renowned, Tony winning musical RENT, created by Jonathan Larson, hit broadway. Since then, the musical has been made into a movie, starring Idina Menzel and the rest of the original cast that performed it on broadway. A live version of the show also aired last year on TV. RENT is now on a 20th-anniversary tour which closed in Boston at the Shubert theatre on November 10th.

This interpretation of RENT was directed by Evan Ensign and the play’s rock-and-roll music kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Since the play’s music is all influenced by rock-and-roll, the songs were thrilling and exciting to watch. The story takes place in the 1990s in New York City, back when AIDS was a pressing issue that affected the lives of many people. Each character in the production has their own story and personal struggles to overcome, whether it was fighting drug addiction, moving on from past hardships, losing a close friend, or going against social standards; RENT lets the audience experience each character’s thoughts.

Starting on Christmas Eve the musical follows these characters for a year, Mark (Cody Jenkins) narrates here and there throughout the production in order to aid the audience’s comprehension. Mark and Roger’s (Coleman Cummings) old roommate Benny (Juan Luis Espinal) now owns the building they live in, which has them at odds during the production since they can’t afford rent. Throughout the play Roger is working on “one great song” and plays the same riff on the guitar multiple times. This keeps the audience entertained as we watch him fall in love with Mimi (Aiyana Smash), a struggling drug addict. On top of all that both Roger and Mimi struggle with AIDS.

RENT also follows the story of Tom Collins, known as Collins, (Shafiq Hicks) who is best friends with Mark and Roger. Collins and Angel (Joshua Tavares) meet in the beginning of the play and fall in love as the show progresses. Angel is a drag queen and both her and Collins struggle with AIDS throughout the production. Maureen (Kelsee Sweigard), who used to date Mark, is a very entertaining character to watch as she performs a protest against Benny’s plan to remove the homeless from a lot and put up a new building there. Maureen dates Joanne (Samantha Mbolekwa) throughout the play; their relationship is full of ups and downs.

Like always, RENTs soundtrack is very thrilling and exciting with its rock-and-roll music. Famous songs like “Seasons of Love,” “La Vie Boheme,” “Rent,” “Light My Candle,” “One Song Glory,” are from this musical. In particular, the song before intermission, “La Vie Boheme,” is very exciting to watch on stage as all the characters dance and sing on a table as they make fun of Benny and his rich investors. Like “La Vie Boheme,” other RENT songs are also very edgy and will keep you with wide eyes while you watch the production. Everyone can come out of this show wanting download the entire album and sing the very famous song “Seasons of Love”

Though set in the 1990s, the story of RENT is very captivating and relevant to modern day. This musical showcases how underprivileged people are treated, and displays how society might look down on the people who are a part of the LBGTQ community. The timeless story tears at everyone’s heart-strings as the characters struggle with physical issues as well as societal differences. Since self-identification is a very relevant subject in modern-day America, RENT has proven to be a timeless story as it connects to young adults.

Overall, this production of RENT was very well done, the lighting and staging of each scene was obviously put together with a lot of thought in order to make it look as good as possible. The cast also performed their roles very well, paying proper tribute to the shows 20th anniversary. Unlike the original show, however, the production had to adjust to a smaller venue for their tour. In conclusion, if you can’t make it to Boston to see RENT, the movie version is definitely worth watching for a both moving and exciting story.