It’s no secret that the musical RENT holds a very special place in my heart, I was a proud ‘RENThead’ back in the day and the show had a profound effect on me at a reasonably young age. Because of this, I’m fiercely protective of it and find re-envisioned productions somewhat difficult because they often fail to live up to my memories of the 'original' production.
That being said, I went into Theatre Sheridan’s production of RENT (on stage now at The Panasonic Theatre) with an open mind and an open heart. It’s been quite a few years since the show closed on Broadway, and over two since I last saw a professional production, and I found myself excited to get to experience it again.
The story of a group of friends living in NYC and battling complex issues such as love, loss, family, money, and of course HIV/AIDS has always been an emotional one, but one thing I noticed towards the end of its twelve year run (making it the 9th longest running show on Broadway) was that my beloved show had become a bit stale. It still expressed its poignant message, but I found it wasn’t tugging at my heartstrings the way it once did – and this is where Theatre Sheridan’s production shines.
The production currently on stage in Toronto succeeds where many others have failed – it gives RENT a new life. It’s fresh, energetic, and most importantly, it strikes all the right emotional chords. Through the use of new and creative staging, choreography and set design the show makes subtle changes that breathe renewed life into Jonathan Larson’s words, and it managed to move this reformed RENThead to tears.
The cast is uniformly strong, and most importantly, age appropriate for the first time in recent memory. Comprising Sheridan’s entire graduating class, there are moments in the show where the stage is overflowing with energy as all thirty five students belt out some of the musical’s most beloved numbers. The camaraderie needed to convincingly pull off this material is made stronger here by the fact that this is clearly a group of real friends performing. The cast are made up of graduates who have been through various highs and lows together for the past three years and are now experiencing a life altering event as they all get their professional debut together. That raw emotion shines through in each one of their performances, and helps make the message of ‘No Day But Today’ permeate that much stronger. One can’t help but imagine how these young students have measured their past 525,600 minutes, and how this wonderful show and opportunity will perhaps change how they measure the next year in their lives.
For those who have loved RENT for many years, I encourage you to revisit the show and see this fresh new production. And for people who are experiencing it for the first time, I can’t think of a better group of young actors to present the material. Sheridan College and Michael Rubinoff have much to be proud of, and I hope that Toronto embraces this show with the same love, respect and compassion that the original Broadway production received. In this day in age, we can all use a bit more love in our lives – and RENT delivers that in spades.
When and Where?
The Panasonic Theatre
On now until June 3rd, 2012
Fri & Sat 8:00PM
Sat & Sun 2PM
Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416-872-1212 or online at www.mirvish.com