by Roxy Orcutt
Full-disclosure: I have never seen Rent, in fact, I wasn’t even all that familiar with the music. Sure, I’ve heard Seasons of Love here and there, because, much like the Let It Go craze, you couldn’t really avoid the tune in the last 18 years it’s been around. The Rent experience was new to me, and I wasn’t disappointed.
As usually, Lyric Arts made spectacular use of their stage space. Since they lack the width of stage, they utilize the height. Out of the nearly dozen shows I’ve seen at Lyric, I’ve never seen a bad set design, never a wasted space, never an unused corner. Rent takes place in 1993 in New York City’s gritty West Village. While a bohemian paradise filled with artists, the paradise is lacking one thing, money. These characters embodied the term “starving artist.” Our main characters find themselves living rent-free (by simply choosing to not pay it because they can’t) in an old, dilapidated loft that translates perfectly on stage.
I’m glad I was able to see Rent for the first time with this cast so I wasn’t comparing them to the original Broadway cast or film version. The filmmaker Mark and his casual cool scarf, the wannabe rock star Roger in tattered t-shirts and dangerously unkempt hair, the literal glitter bomb that is Mimi, the animalistic, artistic Maureen and the bossy, but well-meaning Joanne, just to name a few, were brought to life but such a talented cast, every last one who are in possession of some impressive pipes. And let’s not forget Angel, in all her candy-colored glory and sass, the literal heart of the show.
Angel’s costumes looked like they came straight out of a 1990’s dance music video fever dream, and those weren’t the only costume pieces causing a little nostalgia. Now a period piece, the costumers of Rent have their work cut out of them to dress these characters in clothes that look authentic to twenty years ago. While I personally remember 1993 pretty well (I was ten) there are people now seeing the show for the first time that may not even have been alive during the entire decade of the ‘90’s and I think the costuming on this show showcases the fashion of decade very well, especially for those living a by circumstance shabby chic lifestyle.
The themes of love, friendship and support, as well as dealing with issues such as illness and poverty are beautifully portrayed in the show and the actors took great care to do this amazing work justice, and they, along with the entire production crew and musicians should be proud of the amazing work they’ve done. Rent lives up to the hype and I now see why it garners such devotion among fans. This production at Lyric Arts is not to be missed.
Roxy Orcutt, otherwise known as The Halloween Honey, is a local blogger and author.