LANDMARK MUSICALS AT THEIR NEW SUTTER STAGE WITH AN IMMERSIVE CELEBRATION OF ‘RENT’ LA BOMEME
THERE IS ‘NO DAY LIKE TODAY’ - JONATHAN LARSONS MUSICAL CELEBRATES ITS 28TH YEAR ON STAGE, THIS SF CAST BRINGS RENT’S LOVE AND ENERGY DIRECTLY TO YOUR SEAT
Review by Vince Mediaa
Mark and Roger share the streets surrounding Sutter street and as you climb the steep steps of Powell to the new Landmark Stage. You are immersed in a New York artist colony set in Alphabet City. RENT is now on stage at Landmark Musicals through August 20th. The company was set back a week dealing with Covid delays but celebrated a high energy opening on July 14th.
This summer Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning musical RENT is on a couple of stages here in San Francisco and the South Bay, so I won’t explore the story and history of the show, but I will focus on this terrific cast and artistic team.
For those fans who attend with a nostalgia for RENT iconic theatrical moments, this cast does not disappoint. Highlights include the dazzling Samuel Prince dancing and drumming as Angel in “Today 4 U,” the stellar Nico Jaochico as Mark and Marla Hartfield Cox as Joanne both excellently executing in “Tango: Maureen,” and the performance art of Maureen by Kaylyn Dowd in an epic moment on stage.
Director Jepoy Ramos has honored the creator’s vision and the power of Larson’s message of Love takes center stage. This is Ramos’ debut directorial full-length musical - he says “RENT is so much more than just acting, dancing, and singing - it’s about finding a community, forging relationships, and creating friendships that can rival the strong bond of a family. We would like to humbly dedicate this production to those who have gone on from their fight from AIDS. Each performance, we uplift the names of people we know, we’ve gotten to know, or who have inspired us but succumbed to this terrible disease”. Producer and Artistic Director Jonathan Rosen says “we are excited to bring this musical to a smaller venue.”
With the help of this phenomenal cast, Landmark finally has their first sell out hit on their hands after the 2-year pandemic break. Ramos directed this production on a smaller stage allowing an immersive feel as the company roamed on stage and used the payphones spread throughout the 99-seat theater with an urgency to answer the phone.
Intimacy Choreographer Elena Wright created some effective moments involving the cast and audience. The sizzling ensemble approaches the audience including “The Man” - RENT’S main drug dealer played by the superb Lo Louise who does their best to sell the product to the first and second rows. Louise steals all their entrances with improv bits with the audience.
Set and Costume designer Micaela Kieko Sinclair has made excellent use of the smaller space including incorporating the four member band on stage. The cast is colorful in classic 90’s style, warm sweaters and coats. Angel is always colorful and many of the talented ensemble bring their earth tones to life. Sinclair uses platforms, scaffoldings, and moving tables that end the first act with the showstopper La Vie Boheme.
Choreographer Justin Sabino kept the cafe classic high energy and all eye candy. Sabino’s choreography for the “Santa Fe” is a highlight showcasing Albert Hodge, Nico Jaochico, Samuel Prince and the company in a fantasy modern take of the song. It is smooth and friendly and makes the audience feel like they want to join in.
Rosen wears many hats including his perfect light design and collaborative construction of the classic electric holiday tree with Sinclair. Sinclair also designed the props that includes the film camera that Mark carries, the wood burning stove, and all the gear for Maureen's “Over The Moon” performance.
Landmark’s inhouse Music and Vocal Director Christopher Hewitt has honed an excellent powerhouse sixteen member cast that blows the roof off the warehouse with the second act opener “Seasons Of Love” - with memorable solos by Semhar Gebrat and Joshua Sivad.
Hewitt’s musicians include the standout Bennett Hall who meets all of Roger’s solos. On bass are Victor Serda and Evan Ceremony, on drums are Doug Lippi and Scott Welsh, with support from rehearsal accompanist Greg Zema.
The two act two and half hour show includes some amazing performances including Mark, the videographer making a documentary about life in Alphabet City. Nico Jaochico turns in a winning performance as the filmmaker. He supplies the necessary manic energy for the role, his voice is flawless, and brings the added depth to the character with his ideal acting. He is riveting in his featured numbers including “Rent” and “La Vie Boheme” with the company, and his solo “Halloween” in Act 2.
The confident Milo Boland receives kudos for his singing as the tortured Roger, showcasing the character’s internal struggles with subtle mannerisms and authentic portrayal of the HIV infected rocker. His solo “One Song Glory” is razor-sharp where Boland truly shows off his polished voice. Later his duet with Jaochico “What You Own” steals the second act.
As the wild drug addict Mimi, the amazing Maia Campbell moves with an amazing level of grace and flexibility and possesses a strong and natural singing voice that brings all her sexual angst to her addiction struggle feel so real. Boland and Campbell have the perfect timing as damaged lovers that learn to embrace their addictions. The classic “Light My Candle” is well directed and both prove their affection for their characters. In the second act arch they bring an authentic emotion to “Without You”.
The enthralling Kaylyn Dowd and Marla Cox respectively appear as Maureen and Joanne, the constantly fighting couple, who both sing powerfully and are especially strong in the more humorous aspects of their roles. Dowd and Cox are mesmerizing in their classic duet “Take Me or Leave Me”.
Albert Hodge fulfills his dreams in the role of the anarchist Tom Collins well, his vocals are effective on the lower notes. His soulful zest in his duet with Prince as Angel in “You Okay Honey” is impressive and his act two showstopper is truly heart-wrenching and provides so much emotion.
Samuel Prince in heels 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 highlight and defining moment in the show. Together Prince and Hodge showed authenticity and respect for one another and their love was reflected in their duet “I’ll Cover You”.
Faustion Cadiz is convincing as Benny, the villain and landlord dressed in a long tan overcoat and scowling for most of the first act, he is enthusiastic in the role. Cadiz’s arch in the second act is well done as his mood changes when one of the cast members dies.
The other performers play multiple roles and bring their infectious talents throughout the musical. They include Lili Arguello, Rachel Cohen, Alejandro Eustaquio, Semhar Gebrat, Kyle Laplana, Lo Louise, Joshua Sivad and Dee Wagner. Swings Julio Chavez and Lindsey Ford will have guaranteed performances and many of the ensemble will alternate in the featured roles through the production’s run. Each actor is truly a standout, with exquisite vocal skills with a commitment to the themes of community, friendship, and love.
This timeless and soulful musical doubles down on the power of community and love, in all its forms. It is a viable lesson on the ability to heal through understanding and compassion, letting us know that we only have today and that each day gives us the chance to measure our lives in love. The musical is a sense of community, a thought that can last through decades. If you have never seen “Rent,” you will adore this classic love story that deals with drug addiction, death, HIV, finding your sexuality, and the struggles of living in any urban city.
In keeping with RENT’s long standing tradition of making Orchestra seats available for a reduced RUSH price, the first row (nine seats) are $10.00. Remaining rush seats will be $10 based on availability. Limit of 2 per person there are more details at the Landmark web site. Don’t miss this important immersive celebration of RENT - No Day But Today
LANDMARK MUSICALS PRESENTS
Book, Music and Lyrics by
Directed by JEPOY RAMOS
Choreography by JUSTIN SABINO
Music and Vocal Director CHRISTOPHER HEWITT
Producer JONATHAN ROSEN
Must close August 20th
533 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 (2nd Floor)
10.00 discount code PRIDE
Running Time 2 hours 40 minutes
PHOTO CREDIT: Benedicte Lyche and Vince Mediaa
INTERVIEWS WITH CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM
THE CAST HEAD SHOTS photos by Jepoy Ramos
The RENT Ticket Lottery!
Landmark Musical Theatre has announced that nine front row seats to its summer production of the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning smash hit musical RENT will be available at each performance by randomized selection (called the "RENT ticket lottery") for the low price of $10. Landmark's theater only holds 99 people so this is almost 10% of the total seating capacity.
The day before each performance starting at 8 AM, anyone may sign up online with their name, email address and telephone number for tickets to the following evening's (or the following afternoon's, for matinees) performance. Each entry may request exactly ONE or TWO tickets. No purchase is necessary at the time of entry. At 6 PM, the sign-ups will close and all lottery entries will be randomized and the first 9 tickets will be offered to the lottery entrants in the top positions until all nine tickets have been offered.
Each entrant who is awarded a ticket purchase opportunity will be notified by email and will have until 10 PM to purchase their ticket(s). The tickets will be purchased from our ticketing website (Audience 1st) using a link provided ih the email. There are no additional fees other than the ticket price. Entrants MUST purchase the number of tickets offered to them by 10 PM or their opportunity will be cancelled and the tickets will be offered to the next person(s) in the randomized lottery list.
RENT is the modern retelling of La Boheme and follows one year in the lives of the counter-culture residents of Alphabet City in New York City in the mid-1990s. While trying to overcome the obstacles of poverty, AIDS, drug addiction, and egos, the central characters still reach for dreams and form bonds of lasting friendship.
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. With music, lyrics and book by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning Jonathan Larson.