Tuesday, February 9, 2010

WDL's RENT is passionate

Ah, yes the cognoscenti know them. Those “theatre people”, both professional or community players who enhance both their lives and ours creating entertainment in live theatre. There are some special shows that bond the ensemble into one joyous and selfless entity.
“Funny Thing... Forum”, “The Fantasticks”, “Joseph...Dreamcoat” are three. Add one more... now that “Rent”has become available for licensing. Most definitely this last title has an edgier message than, say Forum, where Pseudolus (the Zero Mostel character) runs around ogling skimpily dressed courtesans. “Rent” deals with AIDS and is set in the '90's when all of us felt the Black Death had converged on the world.
There is no doubt this cast loves one another and will remember this experience the rest of their lives. We saw it in their faces.
Director Chris Turner has done a magnificent job in casting and staging this Delaware premiere. This is rock opera (think JC SUPERSTAR). It is more difficult a task to keep a large cast moving and relating to the lyrics of the music when there is no dialog. Turner kept his cast engaged and credible and made us feel the power of the lyrics and the emotion.
Another interesting element of the direction was Turner's naturalistic approach. Normally actors 'cheat' toward the audience to declaim their lines and sing their tunes. Turner had his ensemble speak directly to one another, no matter even if a back was turned away.
Turner was able to break down inhibitions of his cast; another achievement. To understate, the dancing at times becomes very suggestive and kisses are exchanged between members of the same sex. Yet, it all flowed and was organic.
This is a rock opera. It is loud. This is an enclosed space. The five person on stage band headed by Matt Caserino did a fantastic job with the work. Yes, once in a while the sound overpowered the lyrics.
The back story of “Rent” makes it all the more powerful. Composer Jonathan Larson worked for years on this update of Puccini's La Boheme. The night before opening he died of an aneurysm. That's as substantial a piece of Broadway legend as it gets.
Roger (Brendan Sheehan) had just come off an evocative performance of Anthony in City Theatre's “Sweeney Todd”. He sang beautiful ballads there. The young man not only is a thoughtful actor but exhibited huge rock pipes in an outstanding performance.
Tom (Timothy Lamont Cannon) and Angel (Matt Bennis) even more than the characters Roger and Mimi are the heart of the show. The feeling the two shared for one another was palpable. When Angel succumbs to AIDS, Tom's reaction glazed the eyes of more than one audience member.
Maureen (former Miss Delaware Laura Moss) gives a stirring over the top rock edged rendition of “Over The Moon.”
WDL is to be congratulated for this production. It is a daring and provocative affair. The cast, under Music Director Casarino, handles the shows most popular tunes “Without You”, “One Song Glory”, “Light My Candle” and the most mesmerizing “Seasons of Love” with love and tenderness.
One of the highest compliments that Aisle Say can deliver is that he would see this again.
Til February 13 WilmingtonDramaLeague.org 764.1172

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