The graduating class of Sheridan College's Music Theatre Performance Program are in an enviable position. Until June 3 they are performing a version of Rent
at the Panasonic Theatre. The venue is state of the art and they have the opportunity to strut their stuff in front of theatre-lovers - and agents and directors and prospective employers etc - without having to worry about the box office (though the first block of tickets are already sold out and the run has been extended) or suffering the potential indignities of a review.
So this is not a review.
By 2012 Rent
has become as much of a period piece as Hair
. The age of AIDS and the age of Aquarius have some surprising similarities with the themes of fighting the establishment and living for art and love in the face of a vicious virus or Vietnam echoing across the ages. This production of Rent
takes a very Hair
y approach and emphasizes the energy and music (and one rather misfiring homage to Hair
's notorious nude scene). Both musicals contain minimal plot but lots of tuneful music. The cast of Rent
dives enthusiastically into the songs and when the sound system allows them to shine they certainly do - unfortunately a lot of the time they are lost in a murky sound design or drowned out by an overamplified band. When a voice cuts through it is electrifying and many of the group numbers have a raw power that compensates for a lack of balance between the voices.
The cast's enthusiasm and vitality is contagious and it is impossible not to root for them and enjoy their eye candy appeal - particularly one mohawked hottie who startles in his one vocal solo moment. Liberally applying their own youthful ambitions and joie de vivre makes the now-somewhat stereotypical characters engaging and the big death scenes are moving. There are individual performances that deserve singling out and one that could be chided but this is not a review. If you are a Rent
fanatic this is a different take on the material and you will have a great time. And if you need a dose of youthful energy this Rent
supplies a vigorous measure. The score is undeniably groundbreaking and gorgeous, and the drag queen - http://fabmagazine.com/fab-blog/these-angels-are-just-angels
- steals the show and provides the heart with a simple snap and a lot of sashay. They may be only a step past being students but billing them as "The Stars of Tomorrow" is probably more prophetic than pretentious.
Rent runs till Sun, June 3 at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St. mirvish.com