HOW DO YOU MEASURE A YEAR IN THE LIFE? THIS ICONIC JONATHAN LARSON MUSICAL CELEBRATES ITS 20TH YEAR ON STAGE
RENT the 20th anniversary tour is currently visiting San Francisco for a limited run engagement through June 23rd at The Golden Gate Theatre. The musical about the lives of artists struggling to follow their dreams made their debut in New York in 1996 and their inspiring message about life, equality, acceptance, and love is still relevant today. And this tour does an adequate job in communicating these valuable lessons to new generation of audiences around the US. With music, lyrics and book by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning Jonathan Larson. RENT actually opened 23 years ago, but this tour recolonizes its strong appeal to the history of the show.
This fresh faced cast is Led by Joshua Bess as Roger and Logan Marks as Mark. This production brings passion and heart on stage yet the cast does have some issues struggling with the score. The off chemistry in this cast is evident especially during the electric opening number RENT and the Act 1 finale - La Vie Boheme. Bess’ take on Roger was intense but missing some of the depth. He had a soaring voice but it was his acting that really made his performance miss a beat. His solo songs “One Song Glory” and “Your Eyes” delivered some solid soul exposing emotions that made the audience genuinely connect to his character.
Marks pleased the sold out opening night crowd as the narrator Mark - maneuvering from scene to scene with his interpretation that was full of awkward compassion. “Tango Maureen” (his duet with Joanne) was hilarious and his solo “Halloween” was sincere. Together Marks and Bess formed a keen duo to lead this tour. Yet their acting, singing, and overall performance was also a bit foggy. Their duet “What You Own” was emotionally connected a real friendship and not just actors portraying a role.
Dereandra Tucker was the alluring Mimi and she showed class, sophistication, and vulnerability yet she seemed tired. Xavier McKinnon was Benny and he exuded confidence in a role that is often perceived as the villain. Lyndie Moe was commanding as the over-the-top artist Maureen and her chemistry with the fabulous Lencua Kebebe was charming as her girl friend.
The standouts of the evening is the terrific Jovan King as Angel and Devinre Adams as Collins. King who on a gap year from his musical theater major at Rider University, where he has appeared in Once On This Island to Newsies. He is excellent as Angel a true triple threat who can act, dance, and sing with the ability to grab your full attention with his compelling performance. “Today 4 U” was a high light and a show stopper. Together King and Adams showed authenticity and respect for one another and their love was reflected in their duet “I’ll Cover You”. Adams voice was one of the highlights of this company.
As an ensemble, the company was effective in creating and shaping the scenes to transform the Golden Gate into New York City. But the undertone of this cast is a bit tired. In times of major gentrification especially here in the Bay Area, you can’t help but relate to each of the many characters the ensemble has created for the show. The Act 2 opener “Seasons of Love” was a highlight and showcased the entire company. The best actor in this tour is the audience “Rent Fans” love this show, cheer, stand and sing along with the cast. Some I am sure have seen this musical many times and support all the regional productions that are staged each year.
The 20th Anniversary Touring Production of RENT is directed by Evan Ensign based on the original direction of Michael Greif. The choreography was created by Marlies Yearby - it was organic, passionate, and with a better cast could be powerful. Set Design by Paul Clay and Matthew Maraffi and Lighting Design by Jonathan Spencer utilized every space on stage to create an impressive environment and set the mood of the show. Music Supervision by Tim Weil together with the Sound Design by Keith Caggiano proved that even after 23 years - it still at times hard to follow this story with the sheer volume of this show.
This production of RENT almost has the energy, heart, passion, and love that has followed this musical since Jonathan created the show. The company was as hyped as the opening night audience in the Golden Gate sent their love to this company. They performed an art piece that is meaningful and still relevant in our current time. If we keep getting artists to perform RENT then I am sure that Jonathan Larson’s legacy and the message of love that this show brings will continue to live on 20 more years and beyond. SHN is offering a great price for $25 IN-PERSON RUSH seats go on sale 2 hours prior to performance. In keeping with RENT’s long standing tradition of making Orchestra seats available for a reduced price, the first 32 rush seats will be $25 in Rows A-E. Remaining rush seats will be $40 based on availability. Cash only. Limit of 2 per person.
20th ANNIVERSARY TOUR
Directed by Evan Ensign, choreography by Marlies Yearby,
Must close, June 23rd
SHN Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor St., San Francisco
Tickets: 888-746-1799, www.shnsf.com
Running Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Tickets at https://www.shnsf.com/
Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg
$40 MOBILE RUSH at Tickets Today web site
Download the TodayTix app in the iOS App Store or Google Play Store to unlock the Rush ticketing feature for RENT by sharing on Facebook or Twitter through the app.
Vmedia Arts Zaya and Kat talk about discount tickets
Check back in the app at 9:00am for access to exclusive day-of $40 Rush tickets for every performance. Limited number of Rush tickets per performance.
The tradition of these tickets began 23 years ago, in 1996 in New York when the show moved to Broadway after a sold-out run in a small downtown theatre. The producers of the show are committed to continuing the tradition of offering these orchestra seats in each city the show will play.
For more information on RENT, visit RentOnTour.net.
Rush tickets are available in-person only, 2 hours prior to performance, at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre Box Office , 1 Taylor Street.
THE STORY OF RENT
"Rent" was written at the height of the AIDS epidemic by an emerging playwright named Jonathon Larson. The libretto is equal parts autobiography and an updated version of "La Boheme." The show ran for twelve years at the Nederland Theatre on Broadway, but Larson died suddenly of a non-AIDS related ailment just as his masterpiece was opening to great success. Larson was well acquainted with Stephen Sondheim and his influence can be heard in much of the score.
The story revolves around a year in the lives of roommates Roger Davis, a documentarian and your narrator. They live rough in the loft of a former music publishing house owned by a former roommate and hustler named Benny. Mark is based on the late playwright Larson. Mark is Jewish and lonely. His journey is a search for family while living as an artist. Mark has been dumped by his sexy, wild child, girlfriend, Maureen. Roger lives with a double whammy; a case of musical writer's block, and an HIV diagnosis.
Roger and Mark are destitute and living in a space without central heat or electrical service or other essentials we might count as minimal. Next door is an empty lot with a homeless camp. It is defended by Roger's ex, Maureen. She is a hot red-haired performer, free spirit, and downtrodden advocate now living with a female lover and attorney named Joanne. Benny offers a continuing rent-free existence (such as it) if Roger and Mark can discourage Maureen from making trouble that prevents him from using the space now occupied by the homeless camp for other purposes.