Review: 'RENT': National Tour at the Fabulous Fox Theatre - On Stage and in the Audience

Erin Karll

On Stage: 

Setting the opera La Boheme in New York City in the late 80s during the AIDs crisis was a strong choice for Jonathan Larson 21 years ago. In two acts we follow the story of a group of friends who live in the city and are struggling to stay alive on many levels.

RENT is one of my favorite shows. I have seen many productions and consider myself a RENThead. When the 20th anniversary tour was announced I knew I had to see it. This was a chance to see the original style costumes and set one more time. And having seen the reunion panel at Broadway Con last year I felt a need to come full circle and see the show again. There are some slight changes to the show, but all those just solidified the message and came across as fitting. I always look at ‘Mark’ dancing during La Vie Boheme and was not disappointed with some modern updates. 

The audience had energy from the beginning. Read my Open Letter (Link) to see my opinion on the audience behavior during the show. Beside those issues the production was professional and told the story beautifully.

This cast is full of standouts. The ensemble worked together and the harmony parts “voice mail” and “Christmas Bells” sounded strong while also delivering the humor that was written in those parts. Kaleb Wells (Roger Davis) plays the rock star and has the voice to match. His chemistry with Skylar Volpe (Mimi Marquez) is stunning and powerful showing all the twist and turns of the relationship between ‘Roger’ and ‘Mimi’. They own “Light My Candle” with its flirty but dark tones. Aaron Harrinton (Tom Collins) and David Merino (Angel Schunard) had the crowd roaring each entrance they had together. Danny Harris Kornfeld (Mark Cohen) is charming and heartbreaking as the everyman survivor of this bohemian group. Jasmine Easler (Joanne Jefferson) is in charge on stage. She plays the relationship between ‘Joanne’ and ‘Maureen’, played by super talented Katie Lamark, perfectly going from deeply in love to heart broken, strong and independent and back to love.

I knew the audience was enjoying themselves from the discussions during intermission. My favorites were from the group behind me. Before the show they were talking about how they hoped Taye Diggs would be on tonight and how they all had crushes on him. During the intermission one in the group commented about how surprised he was that the show was sung through almost entirely and how he enjoyed it. RENT is a rock opera and was responsible for a new style of Broadway shows. It is modern stories being told by a diverse cast. Those stories and the message of ‘no day but today’ are as touching and import today as they were when Jonathan wrote them.

Visit for the tours dates and times along with show information. I would recommend this production to any RENThead, and those just wanting to see a good musical. The only thing left to say is “Thank You Jonathan Larson”. 

In the Audience: 

An open letter to the audience of RENT at the Fablous Fox Theatre in St. Louis.

Audience members please show more respect for the art!

At a recent show I had the most horrendous experience as an audience member I have ever had. The show was RENT: the twentieth anniversary tour. Before the show started I had a feeling the audience had an energy. This show is known for the passionate fan base called the RENTheads so I was expecting a high level of excitement for this long awaited return. During the show that energy did not settle at all. There was massive rush of late seating during ‘One Song’ and that began the trouble. In the middle of almost every song there was someone in my row or section needed to get up and leave, I understand a few people needed to excuse themselves for emergencies but this was almost every song! Phones were out either recording the performance or texting. Drinks were dropped and rolled down under rows of seats before the echo was stopped. The worst distraction was the talking during the show. The ushers, who are volunteers at this theatre, were around but mainly focused on helping people find their way back to their seats.

Before the show I warned my neighbors that I ‘moo’ during the “Over the Moon” performance. They were slightly aware of the story, but didn’t know that the audience participated. We continued to talk a bit more, noting that we were on a hold while a stream of audience members rushed to their seats. There was a group behind me that was quizzing each other on the characters names and which song they sang. They seemed to be fans of the movie and were wondering if Taye Diggs was going to be on for “Benny”, but more on their funny notes for the show in my full review. (Link).

Theatre should be an escape from the real world for a few hours. I understand an emergency surprising you during the show causing the need to rush to the lobby or bathroom. I have received those calls, and had those illnesses. Quickly and quietly excuse yourself. It happens at every show and people will understand. Don’t try to return to your seats two minutes later with fresh drinks or with a new group of people.  Please refrain from having full conversations with your neighbors. A quite gasp or “see that” is understandable, and even sometimes a sign of a good performance that is engaging the audience. So, please, just do as the preshow announcements say. Turn off your phones, finish all snacks, sit back and enjoy the performance.  Your fellow audience members and the cast and crew will thank you.