Thursday, July 7, 2011

Skyrocketing RENT at the BCA By Beverly Creasey

Director David Bloom and Dream Out Loud Productions have a hit on their hands. Putting Jonathan Larson’s RENT (running through July 9th) into the Plaza space at the BCA was a brilliant idea. I’ve never felt it really worked in the huge Broadway houses. Bloom concentrates the action around one small set and it pays off. You pay close attention to the songs because you’re not looking all over to see who’s singing from the rafters (and thanks to Joshua Finstein’s deft music direction, you can make out the lyrics). Bloom and company focus on the story and his cast tells it beautifully.

RENT is my generation’s HAIR – except there’s no draft to dodge, no war to protest in RENT. Larson’s “tribal rock musical” has characters with AIDS but no outrage. Larson chose to keep the stories (and the tragedy) personal. The only politics in RENT revolve around homelessness but that thread unravels in the fray. RENT’s great strength lies in Larson’s depiction of human relationships.

The young Dream Out Loud actor/singers inhabit their bohemian characters seamlessly. As in Puccini’s LaBoheme (Larson’s inspiration), Ryan Vona and Kelly McIntyre’s characters meet on Christmas eve and fall in love amidst the squalor of a tenement where no one is paying their rent (to Ahmad Maksoud). Their intense duet, ‘Light My Candle” begins their bumpy relationship (Fans of the opera will laugh out loud at what Mimi drops instead of her key!).

But another couple meets that night and it’s their love story that sets the Dream Out Loud production ablaze. Matt Romero as Angel and Michael Levesque as Collins make this RENT soar. Their version of “I’ll Cover You” (Larson’s homage to Puccini’s “Coat Song”) will break your heart and their story will move you to tears.

Matthew Phillipps and Hayley Travers tear up the joint with a hilarious “Tango: Maureen.” Travers and Ashley Korolewski deliver a fiery “Take Me or Leave Me” and the entire company rocks the heck out of “La Vie Boheme.”