Rent, again, a Review

Posted By Brie Austin In Category: On Stage , Reviews

After closing its twelve year run at the Nederlander Theater three years ago to become the ninth longest runnning show in Broadway history, RENT is back!

The original show previously spawned three touring productions, a filmed live version and a feature film, begging the question is yet another production viable?

It’s central characters – Roger, Mark, Mimi, Tom Collins, Angel, and Maureen struggle with daily poverty, love and loss, life and death. All-the-while they cling to friendships as they pursue their art and a life to be lived on their own terms.

Director Michael Greif returns to re-tool the production, with Tim Weil [music supervisor] and Angela Wendt [costume designer] also on hand to repeat their original assignments.  The new show is now staged at the 499-seat theater in the sub-basement of New Word Stages.

The set is much grander, with a maze of steel girders, stairs and movable platforms, which are as high as they are wide. This provides Larry Keigwin (choreographer) interesting space to work with, but also inevitably confines certain scenes to given spaces solely because the space is there.  While the new set lends itself for some scenes, it is a bit distracting in others; in some instances blocking a clear view [of things being referenced] from the audience.

The lighting design by Kevin Adams is an improvement over the original, and the set does lend itself — to stunning effect in most instances — to the digital projections designed by Peter Nigrini. It works well for “over the Moon,” and then more specifically during “What You Own” — with projections starting with just a few screens and then expanding to wash over the entire set by the time the song modulates.


Beyond the changes of the new set, lighting and effects, Rent is still Rent, with all the characters, songs and themes that have made it so beloved.

Unlike many new openings, however, the cast had an unusual challenge to overcome:  they had to reinvent memorable characters created by not one previous production, but several; on stage, in film, and a staged live production on film.

This cast rose to the occasion and held their own, and even brought new elements to some of the characters.

For example, Maureen (Analeigh Ashford) is funnier and slightly more unbalanced than the original, while Angel (MJ Rodriguez) was more drag-queen Vogue — as opposed to the innocent-cool [transgender] character portrayed in the feature film –, as he lit up the stage with combustible energy. Mark [Adam Chanler-Berat] is more vibrant than any before him, and though staying true to the original role of Tom Collins — Nocholas Christopher stood out with a smooth elegant voice and a low-keyed performance.

The overall cast size is about the same as previous ones, and the ensemble cast – despite a few spoken lines that weren’t clear –deliver a strong performances.  They received a standing ovation for the effort.

Although the tent-city swatters of Alphabet city, in real life, have long since been pushed out and replaced by trendy bistros and high-priced apartments, Rent gives us stories, questions and core messages that remain vibrant and touching, hopefully for a whole new generation of followers.

“There’s only us; there’s only this; forget regret, or life is yours to miss.”

So don’t miss RENT!

A Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum and Allan S. Gordon presentation of a musical in two acts with book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson.  Direction by Michael Greif; Choreography by Larry Keigwin; Music direction by Will Van Dyke.

Tickets $69.50 – $101.50

Mark Cohen – Adam Chanler-Berat
Roger Davis – Matt Shingledecker
Tom Collins – Nicholas Christopher
Benjamin Coffin III – Ephhraim Sykes
Joanne Jeffereson – Corbin Reid
Angel Dumott Schunard – MJ Rodriguez
Mimi Marquez – Arianda Fernandez
Maureen Johnson – Annaleigh Ashford

For more information and tickets

New World Stages
340 West 50th Street Between 8th and 9th Avenues
New York NY 10019

(646) 871-1730

Buy the soundtrack (download) HERE $16.99
Buy I’ll Cover You, the love duet between Angel and Tom $.99
Buy the Movie on DVD HERE $16.49 (Blu Ray)
Buy the filmed live on Broadway HERE $15.19 (Blu Ray)


About Brie Austin

Co-author of I'd Do It Again, he is a columnist/reporter for a variety of magazines in the areas of music, lifestyle, nightlife, travel and business. He also writes business documents and creates copy for websites.

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