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Review: RENT

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

When you purchase a ticket for a CenterStage production, you know you’re in for an evening of first-rate entertainment with some of the most talented performers in the city. When you purchase a ticket for CenterStage’s production of RENT, the company delivers even more.

Audiences agree, because RENT has been a sell-out every night of its run, and as Community went to press, only a few tickets remained for the final shows: Saturday, July 28, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 29, at 2 p.m.

RENT is a high-energy production that tells the story of a group of aspiring artists in New York City engaged in a life-and-death struggle with poverty and AIDS in 1989-90. They ask, “How are we gonna pay last year’s rent” demanded by the landlord they had considered a friend and partner? And how can they deal with losing one of their own to AIDS?

Alonzo Richmond, playing Tom Collins, delivered such a strong performance that his pain at losing his benefactor/partner/lover Angel to AIDS tore through the audience. He was truly a standout among a very strong cast.

Darius Kenner-Williams truly brought Angel Dumott Schunard to life as drag queen extraordinaire, comfortable and accepting of himself as both man and woman.

Lauren McCombs, as the high energy, creative, domineering Maureen Johnson, and Tymika Prince, as her down-to-earth lover who tried to manage her and the situations she created, worked very well as a team.

That is not to shortchange the rest of the cast or the orchestra. Everyone did an outstanding job.

The set was also remarkable. Simple and stark, it was flexible and functional even if the orchestra was nearly hidden from view.

At the start of the show, CenterStage Artistic Director John Leffert recounted the story of playwright Jonathan Larson, who collapsed and died the day before RENT premiered off-Broadway. In keeping with what has become a tradition for many theater companies when they produce Rent, CenterStage has chosen to honor Larson’s memory by collecting money to help fight AIDS. This year, all funds collected will go to House of Ruth and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.

If you haven’t seen the show yet, call 459-0660 immediately to purchase your tickets. If you’re lucky, maybe the show won’t yet be sold out.

CenterStage will present Next to Normal September 6-16.

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