Regional theatres, both community and professional, were as anxious as expectant fathers in a delivery room, or perhaps more to the point, all Flyers fans, when rights became available for “Rent.”
The show is a seminal event for musical theatre ages, on the Great White Way's Mt. Olympus alongside “Showboat” - whom some believe to be the greatest American musical; “Oklahoma”, the first production to have songs move plot along; “Gypsy,” to my mind the most fully integrated musical; “West Side Story,” brilliant choreographer by Jerome Robbins and music by Leonard Bernstein and a neophyte named Stephen Sondheim; “Sound of Music," the most popular movie musical by far and spoofed in hysterical 'sing a longs'; “Hair," one other topical event ripped from the life and times of American culture; “Les Mis,” the all time ALL time most popular show. (No need discussing this. We've all seen it)
But, dear and committed Aisle Say readers, you should see “Rent” as well, and you should see it at The Media Theatre. The theatre cognoscenti knows “Rent.” They've seen it several times. But it's really a populist show and should be devoured by the masses that watch “Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady.” This production will move you; by song, by passion, by evoking the oppressive malaise we ALL endured during the AIDS scare of the '90's.
There are some special shows that bond the ensemble into one joyous and selfless entity. 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.
This was a challenging assignment for artistic director of the theater and director Jesse Cline. Broadway shows of the '50's are so much easier to direct. The protagonist sings the tune either solo on stage or with very little background distraction. The show demands (and Cline complied) with a very naturalistic approach. Normally actors 'cheat' toward the audience to declaim their lines and sing their tunes. The ensemble spoke directly to one another, no 'cheating' allowed. Much movement, much energy, much dynamism.
Aisle Say feels remiss without acclaiming the entire cast; they were all that talented, dedicated and in love with what they were creating on stage. The vast majority of them are N.Y. actors who journeyed to Media. Okay, perhaps they had nothing going on at the moment, but young talented types are dedicated to be in “Rent,” that's what the concept, the power and the music means to them.
The two main lovers, Roger (Patrick Ludt) and Mimi (Eileen Shibley) were superb. Shibley especially had that Greenwich Village edge to her that rocked the audience. That's good, this being a rock opera.
Maureen (Chloe Patellis) was the best “Maureen” I have seen – and how many liver pills has Carter? Her “Over The Moon” was worth the price of admission. Maybe Aisle Say is too shallow, for I have never understood how the song itself fit into the show, but...whatever...it's a show stopper.
Media Theatre is only twenty minutes away on the Blue Route. The main street is fun and full of ethnic dining. Would this were the way in Wilmington.