A belated review of last Wednesday's performance of Rent at the Paramount. This is the fourth performance of Rent I have attended, all of which have been on the various touring productions that have come to Seattle over the past 10 years, which seats it firmly at the top of my list of most-viewed musicals. As such, this review is going to be a bit more detailed than most of my other musical reviews, and most of my references will probably only make sense to those who have seen the musical before (or to some extent the movie, which does the musical no justice whatsoever).
As always, Rent draws quite the diverse audience, including many of the non-regular theatre goers. In this case, quite the younger crowd was represented, with many high-school and even younger kids attending a show which would easily get an R-rating from the MPAA (though notably, the movie received a PG-13 rating, no thanks to editing a lot of the dialogue and scenes). Despite this, I think most of the younger crowd dressed more appropriately for the theatre than the "Seattle casual" some of the older folks tend to wear (as I've ranted on in previous blogs). If only their theatre ettiquette matched their attire. But overall, I wasn't bothered too much by the audience around me.
As for the show, overall I'd have to say it was probably the weakest of the productions I've seen. That's not to say it was bad, I just have a lot to compare it to. Of course, there are some constants that don't change, including the script and scenery, all of which has been the same across all productions I've seen. That leaves the differences to the band and the cast, which I will detail now:
Primary cast -
Mark: Good work, I enjoyed his performance... I thought he really captured the demeanor of the character better than some others.
Roger: Came to the tour straight from the London production... and it shows. London audiences probably think nothing of the fact that he has a British accent, in a musical set entirely in the slums of New York City. I wasn't at all impressed with his performance. It was obvious he had worked hard at covering up his accent with a more American one, but frequently it would come through. I also noticed his singing was a bit reserved, which surprised me for such a dramatic and frequently angry role. I wanted more edge, but consider the possibility that in giving more edge, he would be unable to cover up his accent as successfully, thus he toned it down. Whatever the reason, I wasn't as thrilled by his performance.
Collins: Absolutely outstanding performance. This is the role pioneered by Jesse L. Martin (who popular culture knows mostly from his current role as Detective Green on the original Law & Order series). This role is consistently one of the strongest actors in the cast, and this one was probably the finest I've seen.
Angel: By far the most athletic and energetic performance I've seen... which many may say is what the role calls for. Personally, I think it was overdone. It was so overdone it was distracting from the dialogue/music to me.
Benny: Eh, something about him didn't thrill me. His role is designed to elicit a loathing from the audience, and this time he especially succeeded. Maybe he was too good. Either way I wasn't thrilled.
Maureen: A bit of background... the first time I saw Rent, Maureen's big protest scene was probably my least favorite part of the entire show. (In contrast, for most people it's quite the opposite reaction.) Each time I've seen it it has grown on me, and in this performance, it was absolutely hilarious. The actress who played Maureen did an absolutely outstanding job. She seemed so completely ditzy... it fit the role perfectly.
Joanne & Mimi: Both of these were good, and didn't stand out as better or worse than I've seen previously. They just didn't stand out at all.
The band: The music had a bit of a rough start. For most of the first act it felt like the band was pushing the tempo the entire time, and it was just causing a bit of tension between the music and the singers. This came back together towards the second act, but even then, the music just seemed a bit off balance at times, and while the artists were incredibly proficient, I wasn't as impressed as previously.
Overall rating: 4-stars. This is with a musical that would easily receive 5-stars from me on any other day. It definitely won't stop me from seeing it again every time it makes a stop in Seattle.