Rent – Orpheum Theater – Minneapolis MN – August 14th 2019

Rent review – 8/14/19 

The Orpheum, Minneapolis MN

Speechless. That was how I left the show. And with my mascara half-way down my cheeks from crying for the last 30 minutes of the production. Stunning performance and the story continues to be relevant and relatable.  For first time attendees, I would suggest reading up on the story before attending so you can catch what is going on from the start. It can be rather hard to hear the details of the lyrics due to the loud music. In a nutshell, it is the story of a community of people living a hard life in NYC. They are dealing with addiction, AIDS, homelessness and social issues all while trying to navigate their relationships. 

The set is just as gritty and messy and shambled as the original production and sets a perfect tone for a rundown dirty neighborhood in NYC. The lighting was particularly cool this time around. Lots of shadow casting that at times made the characters bigger than life and highlighted their emotion. You will want to note that this is a Rock Musical…that means at times it will feel more like you’re attending a concert virus a touring Broadway show. It is loud and it is rock. Ask about renting the headset if you want to hear the singing clearer.  

Now about the cast…wow! They all did an amazing job! Each of the cast members had their moment to shine in their role and tell the story of their character. Some stand-out moments included Mimi’s scaffolding dance in “Out Tonight”, Maureen’s explosive entrance and one-women demonstration performance with “Over the Moon”, Angel’s introduction as her drag queen self to “Today 4 U”, Mark and Joanne’s shared angst in “Tango Maureen” and of course the lovely performance of “Seasons of Love” by the entire company. The moments that brought on the waterworks of pure love and pain include Tom Collins in “I’ll Cover You (Reprise), the large group in “Goodbye Love”, and Roger with Mimi in “Your Eyes”.  The orchestra (a.k.a. the onstage band) was just brilliant in delivering the songs and really add to the setting and environment of the story. I would have gone to see them alone! 

I have nothing bad to say about any of the performance. It was a beautiful production that was enticing and captivating. By the middle of the second act, it was like everything around me had disappeared and I was just watching from a nearby corner as these people’s hard existence unfolded as they dealt with their pain while reaching for love. 

PSA for audience members: a theater performance means there is a story to watch and listen to and follow from start to finish. Please try to be on time and get to your seats before the show starts. The entire first scene was disturbed by a lot of late entries who needed flashlights to see their row number. While I know that running late cannot always be avoided, for a theater show entering late it is a lot different than entering a concert or sporting event late, and sometimes not even allowed until the opening number is complete. Plan to get there early so you can get that glass of wine and be in your seats by show start. Thank you from a fellow theater fan, I promise to also do my best with my timeliness. 

Noted Cast/Orchestra: 

Roger Davis – Coleman Cummings 

Mark Cohen – Cody Jenkins 

Tom Collins – Shafiq Hicks 

Benjamin Coffin III (Benny) – Juan Luis Espinal 

Joanne Jefferson – Samantha Mbolekwa

Angel Schunard – Joshua Tavares 

Mimi Marquez – Aiyana Smash 

Maureen Johnson – Kelsee Sweigard 

Mark’s Mom and others – Rayla Garske 

Gordon/My Grey and others – Michael Ferlita 

Steve/Squeegee Man and others – James Schoppe

Paul and cast – Zare Anguay 

Alexi Darling/Roger’s Mom and others – Ysabel Jasa 

Conductor/Keyboards – Mark Binns 

Assistant Conductor/Keyboards/Guitar – Paul O’Keefe 

Guitar – David Malachowski 

Bass – Jordan Richards 

Drums – Jeff Snider 

By Amie Bresnehan

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