Continuing the legacy of their predecessors, this high-spirited young cast sang and danced their hearts out from the moment they bounded onto the stage for the opening number until they took their final bows to a standing ovation.
After a 19-month intermission, RENT is the ideal show to herald the start of a new theater season for Broadway in Detroit. In its 25th anniversary “Farewell Season of Love” Tour, the musical’s life-affirming theme and memorable songs are more relevant than ever.
Written by the late Jonathan Larson, RENT centers on a community of artists and free spirits living in New York City in the ’90s at the height of the AIDS crisis. Based loosely on the Puccini opera La Boheme, the characters face the devastation of a deadly disease while struggling with poverty, drug addiction and failed relationships. Still, they manage to forge a community of hope and love that transcends their despair.
The heart-rending history of RENT exemplifies its optimistic message. On the night before the show was scheduled to begin previews, Larson, the show’s writer and driving force died unexpectedly from an aortic aneurysm at the age of 35. Grief-stricken but determined to honor Larson’s memory, the cast filed onto the stage of the off-Broadway New York Theatre Workshop and performed the show. RENT was an instant hit and moved quickly to Broadway, where it won multiple awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Continuing the legacy of their predecessors, this high-spirited young cast sang and danced their hearts out from the moment they bounded onto the stage for the opening number until they took their final bows to a standing ovation. Notably strong performances included Lyndie Moe as Maureen, who delivered a laugh-out-loud rendition of “Over the Moon” and Rayla Garske as her on-again-off-again girlfriend Joanne. Their duet “Take Me or Leave Me” was superb, as was the hilarious “Tango: Maureen” by Garske and Cody Jenkins as Mark, Maureen’s former boyfriend and the group’s documentarian. Other standouts included Shafiq Hicks as Tom Collins, Javon King as the iconic Angel and Aiyana Smash as the struggling addict Mimi, who dazzled the audience with her potent vocals and agile dance moves in “Out Tonight.”
Inspiring ensemble performances of the exuberant “La Vie Boheme” and the poignant “Seasons of Love” illustrate the show’s inherent optimism as the characters garner hope and strength from each other and choose love over fear.
The diverse score of RENT includes some of musical theater’s most beautiful love songs, with especially stirring performances of “I’ll Cover You” by Angel and Tom and “Without You” by Mimi and Roger (Coleman Cummings).
The requisite masks did not deter the enthusiastic audience from singing along to their favorite numbers and punctuating their applause with expressive shouts of approval.
For more information about Covid-19 protocols for Broadway in Detroit, which include showing proof of vaccination, click here.
RENT runs through Sunday, Oct. 24, at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit. Ticket prices start at $39. A limited number of main floor seats are available for $20 at the box office starting two hours prior to curtain time on the day of each performance. For tickets or more information, call 313-872-1000 or visit broadwayindetroit.com.