Rent: Houston Press Review

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Rent PosterPaper globe moon, graffiti-covered brick wall, chain-link fence, industrial pipes, corner phone booth: There’s only one great show with all these elements, Jonathan Larson’s hip, evergreen cultural phenomenon from 1996. Winner of the Tony, Drama Desk, Obie and a Pulitzer Prize, Rent is so full of life and such an exuberant rock paean to unconventional bohemianism that it always comes as a shock to recall that creator Larson (music, lyrics, book) died on the eve of the premiere and never witnessed its huge success. Even with this horribly ironic baggage, Rent is one of the great Broadway works, an instant classic, and Country Playhouse imbues this show with a tremendously winning, affecting production. It’s one of the company’s best shows ever, and that’s saying something, for CP’s been very hot recently.
Director O’Dell Hutchison infuses this Manhattan East Village updating of Puccini’s classic opera La Bohème with sexy energy, theatrical pizzazz and an immense heart, and the entire company goes the distance and makes his work look effortless. The talented young cast brings this wondrous show to life: Brad Goertz (AIDS-infected musician Roger), Christopher Patton (videographer Mark), Erich Polley (drag queen Angel), Julia Hester (drug-addicted Mimi), Jessica Janes (lesbian performance artist Maureen), Michael Alexander (Tom Collins, Angel’s lover), Kyle Ezer (sellout Benny), Rikki Conner (Joanne, Maureen’s lover) and chorus soloist Johanna Bonno are all standouts. The problems of mike balance (the orchestra’s too loud and often drowns out the singers) and lighting (it sometimes misses the space where the actors stand) are minor annoyances and easily fixed, and they in no way harm the wonders of this work. Rent is a milestone in musical theater. Go to Country Playhouse and see why. Through January 30. — DLG (David L. Groover)

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