Rent is a rock musical written by Jonathan Larson that follows the lives of several young artists and musicians struggling to survive inNew York’s Lower East Side. It is about hunger in every sense of the word. Physical hunger due to lack of finances and the deeper hunger of creative souls trying to find their way in the world, trying desperately to hold tight to their dreams. Close bonds form through the many trials they face—addiction, the ever growing presence of AIDS, and the struggle to find their voice as performers.
In the LOT’s version of Rent, I didn’t feel the grittiness of New York as I have in other productions of the show. Overall, the performers needed to go deeper into the emotional core of the story and the profound connections their characters have with one another. There is a certain anger that comes from struggling, and Larson wrote it into the Rent music. There were times that it seemed like we were being shouted at rather than that anger coming from the truth of the story.
The choreography by Amelia Hironaka worked beautifully for the most part and it was at its best when it was simple and clean. There were a few numbers where movement was overcomplicated and ended up looking a bit laboured but overall it worked well.
Most of the performers have stand out moments, too many to list and as I mentioned this company is chalk full of talent. Phil Skala as Angel was the knock out for me. His open, expressive face and beatific smile drew me in and I wanted to watch him every moment he was on stage. His characterization was incredibly honest and layered. He was both moving and hilarious. An absolute delight. Angel is a showy character but only if played with truthfulness. Skala nailed it.
Seanna Kennedy has done an admirable job with her direction. There are competing productions of Rent inToronto right now. I have not seen the other version but I do like the intimacy of this space and you will certainly have an enjoyable evening with the production.
Rent plays at the LOT through June 16
For tickets or more info visit: http://lowerossingtontheatre.com/