Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The touring company of the Broadway hit Rent has landed in DC once again. The Jonathan Larson musical is currently playing at Warner Theater. Roger, Mark and the rest of the group are back in a production that is much more successful than in years past.
Loosely based on La Bohéme, Rent follows a group of penniless artists in New York's Greenwich Village. The characters fight, live and love to the tune of Jonathan Larson's wonderful score. The music is vigorous at times. At other times it is tender and melodic. Then in an instant, the score reverts back to its energetic style, taking the audience on a wild but very enjoyable ride.
The cast as a whole is quite good. There is a lot of potential in this group. However, there are moments where their lack of maturity is evident. For the most part the cast handles the musical numbers well but several of them rush through their dialogue.
There are a few standouts. Kevin Spencer delivers a sensitive portrayal of the wounded Roger. He shows talent as an actor and his voice is perfect for the role. As Mark, Guy Olivieri conveys a nerdish quality while still managing to fit in with his group of artistic friends. He is a skilled singer and is especially adept at conveying the humorous side of his character. Justin Rodriguez's Angel Schunard is deliciously over-the-top and Caissie Levy's portrayal of Maureen is one of the highlights of the show.
Unfortunately, one of the key roles in the show has been miscast. As Mimi, Krystal L. Washington certainly looks the part. Like the numerous actresses that have played Mimi before her, Washington is curvy and fit, with an untamed mane of curly hair. However, she lacks the confidence that many of those actresses possessed. Her movements seem stilted, especially when dancing. Additionally, her singing is inconsistent. Ms. Washington has a lovely voice and when she lets go she is fierce. But more often than not, she seems to lack power and at times her voice gets lost.
The direction by Michael Greif still holds up and Marlies Yearby's choreography is fun to watch. Paul Clay's set design not only provides an appropriate environment, but it also complements Angela Wendt's funky costume designs.
Rent may not be for everyone. This is not an understated show; It is loud and bold. Yet it holds a certain charm and it is no surprise that fans of Rent, otherwise known as "rentheads," still flock to see this musical.
Rent is now playing in a limited run through February 16th at Warner Theater.
Cast List (in order of appearance)
Roger Davis: Kevin Spencer