Jersey boy and I were fortunate to be able to catch the opening night of RENT at the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre on Thursday evening. It was energy packed, richly choreographed and well-performed by a great group of young performers. I was amazed at the apparent amount of work that was poured into the production.
RENT is the now fairly well-known musical that is based on Puccini’s opera La Bohème. The music and lyrics were written by Jonathan Larson, who tragically died before opening night of a brain aneurysm. The play is about a group of young artists living on the fringe in New York City and examines complex issues such as sexuality, fear, illness, addiction, loss, love, hope, trust and faith in a way which moves between deeply moving and downright hysterical.
I have seen a number of plays in my day, but I have to say – I cannot remember when I have seen so much effort put into a community theatre production. The choreography alone was amazing (props to choreographers Ryan Domres and Hannah Casselton)! I think about the synchronicity required to pull of some of the more complex choreography – which was often delivered in tandem with singing – and I just have to bow to their success. In particular, the La Vie Boheme number was really a feast for both the eyes and the ears.
The play is virtually all delivered musically – in that even those parts that would seem to be spoken are in a sing-song manner. The variety in the cast members’ voices is quite amazing – this is not a Disney type of performance wherein all the vocal performances are cookie-cutter simplicity that one can readily sing along with – the differences and depth in the vocal performances across the cast and even from one number to another with individual cast members expanded the reach of the material and made it more gritty and real.
Jersey boy liked the Over the Moon performance by Maureen (played by Kendrick Pifer) the best for its humor and emphasis. I don’t know how many months it will be until I can see or even hear the word cow without thinking about that performance and laughing. And as for the physicality of the performance – incredibly done Kendrick – bravo!
As for my favorites, I leaned toward the interaction between Tom Collins and Angel (played by Abdul Habib and Alex Grosz respectively). Those roles were so well-played – to include the tenderness in the relationship (which was illustrated whenever they were on-stage together via touches and glances – incredibly well-done). And let me say in regard to Angel’s moves with those high heels and fabulous outfits – damn, you know how to work it! You do drag like no other Alex Grosz! I was blown-away by your performance which was spot-on and honored the heart of the character (you didn’t pander to stereotypes or the silly – you delivered it with realism – so says the Cali girl who has known a real drag queen or two in her day). And the last scene between Tom and Angel, well I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen it yet, but let me just say that I found it to be very powerful.
One of the key numbers in the show asks the question, “In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes…how do you measure a year in the life?” When you see RENT with this talented group of performers you will realize that the year they capture on stage is representative of life lived in the moments and I promise you the song will stick with you. Indeed, so many moments in this performance will linger with you long after you have left the theatre.
So, if you haven’t had a chance to see RENT yet as performed by this troupe what are you waiting for?? I strongly recommend you plan to catch it before its run is up. There are performances remaining – July 31 and August 3-7. You can purchase tickets online at FMCT’s site. But you better hurry…I already purchased tickets to go again on Wednesday, August 3rd with my daughter Sarah and it was clear that the word is already out that RENT is an event not to be missed.
I applaud the cast, crew and staff of this production – you do Jonathan Larson’s work proud, but more importantly, you do justice to the message of RENT – appreciating the love and happiness that surrounds us in the moments – or perhaps more appropriately stated – in the minutes…five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred to be exact.
Day seven hundred and fifty-six of the new forty – obla di obla da