Rent rocks at the Omaha Community Theater

Natalie McGovern

As for Rentheads, this production will leave you feeling all over the place, and it’s hard not to sing along to its interactive experience. Rock opera music written by composer and lyricist Jonathan Larson is invigorating, and if you’re a dedicated fan, you’ll want to sing along all the time.

The energy came from the black box space scene, reflecting the energy of the industrial background combined with the aesthetic of underground graffiti. Festive Christmas lights and a rotating turntable also take center stage in the sets. Welcome to the East Village in New York, 1989 Rent! This is the embodiment of protest against the current, rebellion and subcultures living on the fringes of society and clashing with the elite. This is their story. History of the marginals.

Rent’s pioneering debut in 1996, beloved across all genres and expanding theatrical circles, revolutionized the modern musical through its mass appeal and recognizability. Inspired by La bohème by Giacomo Puccini, it has been breaking box office records for decades. Since its opening, the rent has been rising ever since.

I have watched many documentaries about Larson, who passed away too early in the prime of his career, and every story that details his life shows that he did emulate art after life. Moondance Diner while writing his musical, ending up living the life of a starving artist. His friends included playwrights and artists from all walks of life, and New York City was going through political and economic turmoil from crime to the peak of the AIDS epidemic. If you’ve seen Netflix’s Tik Tik Boom, it really paints an accurate picture of 90s nostalgia and the world Larson lived in every day. He wanted to write the next Hair of his generation, and he far exceeded that goal by single-handedly changing the face of musical theater.

On the basis of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème, Rent retells the classic story of a tragedy centered around the bourgeoisie of the 19th century. In 1988, Larson was approached to turn La bohème into a rock musical. The poet Rodolfo became Roger, the singer Musetta, Maureen, the painter Marcello (Mark), and the state councilor Alcindoro subsequently became Joanna. Shunar went from street musician to drag queen. The philosopher Collin respectfully became Collins.

When we open it, the functional camera shows us all angles of the set, capturing both the audience and the actors in real time. The little extra touches to this iconic production could only be masterfully realized by director Steven Santa and his team.

A diverse and inclusive ensemble rounds out the cohesive cast, doubling for an array of characters and great cameos like Mark’s mom or news producer Alexi Darling. The acting is second to none. We see a smooth and solid performance throughout the two acts. Roger (Jesse White) tries to write one last song as a brooding Roger who struggles with his HIV-positive diagnosis. It should be noted that White is the lead singer of a real rock band, which is a suitable casting choice. In fact, it would be an understatement to say that the entire cast is not ideal for portraying their characters.

Billy Ferguson as Mark Cohen is consistently dynamic throughout the performance with clean, resonant tenor vocals. Isa Gott brings a youthful seriousness to Mimi, an exotic dancer and HIV-positive drug addict. Gott’s “Out Tonight” served as a teasing display of sensuality, passion, and emotion.

Evelyn Hill, as dramatic and excellent artist Maureen, puts on a performance that can break through the stratosphere. The girl may cry.

Brandi Mercedes Smith is as powerful a force as tough lawyer Joanne. She is also Maureen’s new love. The Smith and Hill duet on “Take Me or Leave Me” was an absolutely stellar performance, showing off their impressive pipes.

DJ Tyree as Collins and Wayne Hudson II have great, believable chemistry. Tyree’s soulful singing is eye-catching, and Hudson II’s energetic portrayal of the Angel is hilarious and polished.

With songs like “No Day But Today”, “Seasons of Love”, “I’ll Cover You”, “Take Me or Leave Me”, “Halloween”, “What You Own” and “Your Eyes” etc. Of course, Rent’s uplifting number has a lot to offer both sonically and theatrically. What I particularly liked about this production was that it involved the audience in many unexpected ways, from confetti and balloons to seeing their own reflection on the camera screen as she moved through the crowd.

Highlights: Evelyn’s weeping high note in “Seasons of Love.” Roger’s moment with Mimi in “Your Eyes” is heartbreaking and raw, which I find very romantic. DJ Tyree’s “I’ll Cover You” is a beautiful touching performance that will move you to tears.

The rent has sold out for this entire run, so if you get a chance, don’t miss the last couple of performances of this popular musical at the Omaha Community Playhouse! The remaining performances will run from March 16 to 19 at the Howard Drew Theatre.

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