Theater archives

Rent Is Back: My Review


Remember when shows used to move to a larger theater?

Well, they still do that, but then after they shut down, they move back to a smaller theater.

This provides some kind of economic closure, I guess.

So the award-winning Jonathan Larson musical Rent is now at New World Stages.

The musical — which cannonballed from Off-Broadway to Broadway in 1996 and ran for 12 years — was greeted as a raw, loving retelling of La Bohème, set in the bohemian East Village in 1989.

It was basically the new Hair, a youth explosion that in this case was reacting to the specter of AIDS death rather than the Vietnam War, using rock music and recitative to span themes of loyalty, oppression, ownership, and loss.

The original director, the aptly named Michael Greif, has again put his cast on stairs, ladders, and platforms as they run for their lives, finding hope in each other’s arms.

The night’s highlights include the affecting eulogy “I’ll Cover You” by MJ Rodriguez and Nicholas Christopher (who powerfully reprises it with the ensemble); the frisky “Out Tonight,” belted by the hedonistic Mimi, Arianda Fernandez, hanging from the rafters; and the loony performance piece “Over the Moon,” done to comic perfection by the Cameron Diaz-like Annaleigh Ashford.

The production’s net impact, like the theater, is smaller — not as wrenching or tough as Rent was and could be.

But it still has the power to provoke and move. Even in this lower-octane version, Rent is worth the money — and it was great to once again hear the references to the Clit Club, the Pyramid, and, of course, the Voice.

And thus completes the year of AIDS-classic revivals, with Angels in America, The Normal Heart, and now this.

Silence equals death, whereas speaking out inspiringly turned into art.