Walking into the Orpheum Theatre Tuesday night, the stage was a street in New York, with aspects of neighboring buildings on the sides of the stage. The grungy feel extended to the farthest seat, giving the audience the feeling of what an alleyway might look like in the Big Apple. Everything was so simple yet intricate, leaving the audience a feeling of anticipation. Rent, here in Minneapolis until June 11, satisfied that anticipation and provided a show that did not disappoint.
Paul Clay did a fantastic job designing the set for Rent. Utilizing multiple platforms, there was no need for massive scene changes. When other elements of the set were brought in to determine the scene/setting, it didn’t distract from the action happening, and were smooth. Each platform was used for a different reason and provided a different setting. One platform had lights to represent a Christmas Tree, another to represent an AIDS support group, and others were used to represent other places. The scaffolding was very present here, just as it is present in New York. There were also cool designs that were graffiti like lending an artsy feel, most of these characters are artists. Nothing was too brash, out of place, or distracting. This set was a perfect fit for the show.
Once the show began, the set was complimented with beautiful lights, designed by Jonathan Spencer. Bringing you more into the story, they would enhance and direct the audience as to where their attention and focus should be. One beautiful example of this lighting is the dimness of Angel’s funeral brought focus up front, but Angel was walking off into a bright light, like she was walking into Heaven as an actual angel. However, in some scenes the lights were too dim, making it hard to see what was happening on stage. This didn’t happen often, but it was still hard to make out what the actors were doing. There were also times when the spot-op was late to light the actor(s). Usually it wasn’t terribly noticeable, but for those who did/do, it can be very distracting. Despite these small and minimal flaws, the lighting is gorgeously suited for the settings, and supported the story as authentic.
The strongest piece of this production were the vocals. Solos, duets, and ensemble numbers, there were truly moments where the vocals were breathtaking. One of these moments was the iconic song “Seasons of Love”. Everyone was singing their heart out, blending well with each other, and capturing the meaning of the songs with the vocals and lyrics. The cast made it seem effortless to sing these songs beautifully. Along with the vocals, the acting was also noteworthy. Skylar Volpe (Mimi Marquez) was outstanding, especially in her duet with Roger (Kaleb Wells) “Without You”. The meaning came out through both their voices and both sounded amazing, but her voice was stunning, all the emotion she put into it, she was hunched over on top of a table because of the intense emotion of the song. While she was amazing, David Merino (Angel) and Aaron Harrington (Tom Collins) were amazing when they were onstage. Their chemistry was strong, and the progression of their relationship through the show made both actors loveable as individuals as well as a couple. David was wonderful and made Angel a character that was easy to love, easily stealing the show with the personality he brought to her. Aaron could demonstrate both the serious and humorous nature of Tom Collins in a sincere way.
Rent is a must see show you don’t want to miss. This tour for the 20th Anniversary of the show is worth every cent, and I’m sure Jonathan Larson would be proud of the work put into his writing, here at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis now through Sunday, June 11th.