Canada Review: "Rent" with Broadway Across Canada

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  • Adam Darts, Contributing Critic - Canada

RENT rocks Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre this week as Broadway Across Canada’s revives Jonathan Larson’s fabulous bohemian tale of artistes, New Yorkers and AIDS afflicted lovers for the 20th Anniversary Tour.

Our lead cast tell the story of 3 couples, besotted and loving Collins and Angel, the tumultuous and contrasting Maureen and Joanne, and star-crossed lovers Mimi and Roger.  We experience their lives over the course of a year, documented through the seasons by Mark, Roger’s roommate, who watches on as his friends and loved ones are hurt by each other and themselves.  Jonathan Larsen’s semi-autobiographical documentary of New York life during the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s is breathtaking and heart-wrenching.

Leading the highly accomplished cast is Cody Jenkins, playing Mark Cohen, who brings magnetic energy and sincerity to the stage - particularly on the Tango Maureen duet with Joanne (Samantha Mbolekwa).  The talent doesn’t stop there as this company’s fantastic cast had impeccable vocal abilities, mastering the challenging ‘flipped range’ score. Beyond the named cast, the company had a wholesome sound which blended so well together, the lesser-known chorus numbers managed to hold their own against the backdrop of already stand-out rock ballads.

Whilst deeply enjoyable, this touring production on occasion found it difficult to find its footing in the theatre, with some questionable staging choices: much of the action being played to stage left and choosing to be faithful to the narrative lighting choices rather than lighting faces for the audience to see.  This seemed to affect our second lead most, Roger played by Coleman Cummings, whose vocal abilities were absolutely stunning, but whose acting and emotion got lost in a blur of shadow and over-reverb.

With a punchy rock sound, rich vocal harmonies and powerfully moving storyline, RENT is highly recommended for all to get their fix of 90s rock opera and emotional catharsis.

RENT plays in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver until 22nd September 2019.