Review: December 24th, 9PM, EST (RENT)

I went and saw Stumptown Stages performance of RENT tonight. If you’re not familiar with the Musical, check out Wikipedia before you go on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RENT

We're not gunna pay.........

A couple of disclaimers:

I am a big fan of RENT, I’ve worn out copies of the CD, I’ve seen it on Stage (Touring Cast) and I’ve seen the movie, documentaries and I know every song by heart… I can name those tunes in 1 note.

I did not pay to attend this production, I was a guest of a cast member who knows how much I love this musical.

What I liked:

Theater! Theater! is a smaller venue, maybe 50 seats, so it’s up close and personal with the cast. That’s kind of cool. The stage layout was fantastic for such an ambitious production. Sure it’s not Broadway, but setting the scenes are important and they did a good job.

My Cast Favorites:

Joanne (Lava Alapai): She was fantastic, in character, on time & key – I was excited to follow Joanne’s path through this twisted maze of story.

Collins (Jerrod Neal): So incredible, a great voice, a wonderful actor and really kept me wanting more from him. I’ve seen him in a couple productions, he could easily carry a lead and draw a crowd. Why isn’t he on Broadway?

Maureen (Alina Zisk): A great, true to character performance of Maureen. Pookie just rolls of her tongue – My only criticism? She seemed to fight with the songs to stay on tempo. But all in all, rocked the house with her performance.

Benny (Yohannes Murphy): I’ve seen Yohannes in a couple of Stumptown performances. While I think he overdid the Wiz, I think he was a perfect fit for this character. He didn’t try to take the character to new heights, he just gave a fantastic and solid performance.

Chorus (Many) Any time this company sang as a group, I was memorized. In the true spirit of RENT you heard the notes, the passion, the fire in each song. With one exception noted below.

Song Performances: While I had issues with many of the songs/characters, a couple songs jumped out at me as noteworthy. “Another Day” Roger and Mimi played great opposite each other, they seemed to blend in with their vocals and filled the gaps when needed. “Christmas Bells” Again, just an out of the park rendition of this song. “Will I” My dislike for the performance of this song is purely musical direction. The arrangement was modified to a little more uptempo and a vibrato soprano was added. This song is specifically memorable for it’s harmony as it personifies the general feeling of “We all have the same fears.” To change it and make it less than harmonious really detracts from the message and the moment.

Spot On Song Performances: “Over the Moon” (Moo) “Seasons of Love” “Take Me or Leave Me” “Without You” “I’ll Cover You: Reprise” and “What You Own” The musical’s showstopping Act One Signature Song “La Vie Boheme” was shaky in terms of synchronicity but well performed, a testimony to the strength of this Cast as a whole.

Performances that didn’t do it for me:

Angel (Tyler Andrew Jones): I just didn’t buy it, I didn’t hear the songs, nor did I buy the character. The one time I thought his voice was great, it was fed through a leveler. I think this person was mis-cast but I’m not a director.

Roger: (Stephen Miller): I give Stephen a little leeway as this was his Debut Stage Performance. I just felt that knowing the character as i’d seen it performed before, I just didn’t buy his commitment to the role. He seemed to be unsure of his vocal talents, which he has and unsure of his abilities. I think he’s got the chops, with practice.

Mark: (Clay Neal) I enjoyed Clay’s performance of Mark, I bought into this character. I just don’t know that he had the singing chops to keep up with the character in this role. He just didn’t seem to keep the energy of the nerdy, adorable, lovable, lost Mark.

All in all it was a good show. I left smiling and applauding. The first act really made me nervous, but the cast brought it home in the second act.

Stumptown Stages is performing RENT through August 1st at Theater! Theater! Located at 3430 SE Belmont in Southeast Portland. For more information Check out www.stumptownstages.com

What did the mass media say about this Production?

The Oregonian

Portland Monthly Mag

The Mercury

Thanks for reading to the bottom: You know you’re in a community theatre when you see something like this:

Please keep your feet to yourself.

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