This time in a non-Equity version, Rent returns to Pittsburgh for a brief run at the Benedum Center through August 27. Now labelled Rent Live on the program cover (in a post-film title change similar to that of Chicago), the current production features a cast of young, eager performers. Their lack of professional stage experience yields little depth on the acting side, but most are good singers and bring the necessary freshness to their roles. The talent level is even and most offer a shining moment.
Our rock star wannabe, recovering addict Roger is played by the lanky Bryce Ryness. His portrayal shows the character as more easygoing than others I have seen, while his lanky frame contributes a sullenness. Jed Resnick combines the appropriate amount of nerdiness and earnestness for video "docomentarian" Mark. He shows impressive physical agility and makes "Tango Maureen" a standout song.
As Mimi, Arianda Fernandez often exhibits a coarseness in her lower vocal register that is unappealing, and she moves well, but she doesn't hit the standout opportunities available in the role. Chante Carmel Frierson gives a solid performance as Joanne, bringing out the young attorney's confidence as well as her apprehensiveness, and she sings quite well. When Tracy McDowell's kewpie doll look is first viewed, it's hard to imagine her as Maureen, but her "Over the Moon" is winning and she shows a lovely voice throughout.
The role of Angel, the emotional center of the show, can be a real gem for the right actor. Ano Okera makes all the correct moves and sings well, but Ano Okera makes all the correct moves and sings well, but doesn't show the captivating spark that would draw the other characters to him. Warren G. Nolan, Jr. as Collins starts out a bit unsteady, but his "I'll Cover You: Reprise" is excellent.
Paul Clay's sets are the standard industrial style and work well; Angela Wendt's costumes remain the same.
The Rent tour continues to Pittsfield, MA, then on to several Florida stops. Visit www.siteforrent.com for more information.