Like fine wine and Seinfeld reruns, some things only get better with age. Such is the case for “Rent,” currently at the Fisher Theatre as part of its 20th anniversary tour.
“Rent” opened its Detroit run on Tuesday night and will play through Sunday.
Part of the magic of Jonathan Larson’s rock musical is the collective energy and contributions throughout the cast. This isn’t like “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” where the majority of the scenes revolve around one central character. In “Rent,” top billing is shared among many.
Katie LaMark (Maureen) and Jasmine Easler (Joanne) ace their rendition of "Take Me or Leave Me," an emotion-filled exchange between a couple on the rocks. "I’ll Cover You (Reprise)" is a tender collaboration about a member of the friend group that has died, allowing room for Aaron Harrington's (Collins) breathtaking vocals to shine.
Skyler Volpe as Mimi grabs hold of the stage whenever the opportunity arises. Her more subdued participation in "Light My Candle" is a plate-setter for her can’t-miss solo, "Out Tonight." It’s a hard-rocking number that combines daring choreography (set on a fire escape) with an intensity that builds as the song progresses.
Volpe takes the role that Rosario Dawson made famous in the film version and adds her own seductive spin.
The ensemble also packs a mighty punch when they find themselves all on stage together. The rollicking "La Vie Bohème" closes the first act on the highest of notes. The group reconvenes on stage after intermission for the most recognizable “Rent” song, "Seasons of Love."
Of course, the show is not all sunshine and rainbows. Most of the characters are down on their luck artists, some afflicted with the HIV/AIDS virus. “Rent” doesn’t try to hide the emptiness these characters feel and the grief they are forced to deal with. But it does so in an uplifting manner, where despite the lofty odds being faced, we can still envision a brighter future for Mark, Roger and the rest.
There’s also a dose of local flavor in the cast. The role of Mark Cohen, one of the show’s most prominent, is played skillfully by Danny Harris Kornfeld, a graduate of West Bloomfield High School. (Between the star turn for Kornfeld and the Lakers’ surprise run to the basketball state semifinals, it’s a good time to be a WBHS alum.)
Those attending “Rent” for the first time will have several of the newly addictive tunes bouncing around in their heads for days to come. And for the veterans, those on their second or 22nd viewing, it’ll be another reminder that the best things in life truly never get old.
See the show this week
- When: Wednesday-Friday, 8 p.m. | Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m. | Sunday, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
- Tickets: Available here.