Head Copy Editor
“There’s only now. There’s only here. Give in to love or live in fear. No other path. No other way. No day but today.”
“Rent” is a musical by Jonathan Larson that tells the harrowing story of a group of impoverished youth living in New York in the early 90s struggling under the shadow of AIDS and was presented by University Theatre as its 2014 fall musical production.
The production, directed by Tony Elliot, ran from Nov. 13-16 in the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center. The cast featured Jeremy Hammer as Mark Cohen, Colin DiLucido as Roger Davis, Zachary Terrazas as Benjamin Coffin III, Mark Rissmiller as Tom Collins, Jack McClellan as Angel Dumott Schunard, Shayna Murray as Mimi Marquez, Sarah Ward as Maureen Johnson and Cara Clase as Joanne Jefferson. The ensemble was comprised of Micah Talbot, Aubyn Johnson, Emilio Nieves, Tayrn Barnes, Kelly Milligan, Katie Dobson, Julia Howey, Joey Bertoni, Billy Gilmore, Jason Lenker, Andrea Amos and Lindsey Levine.
The set was stunning, managing to be minimalist in construction, yet elaborate and realistic in its nature. It was perfectly urban, with graffitied brick walls stating, among other things, “AZT Kills.” Paired with lighting that conveyed a sense of desolation, the stage was perfect for captivating the audience and causing a sense of immersion in the action that unfolded.
Hammer delivered a solid performance as Mark, managing to embody the spirit of an
anguished male seeking to make a difference in light of his privileged upbringing. DiLucido and Murray played off of each other’s strengths to create the beautiful love affair of Roger and Mimi. Terrazas also delivered a strong performance as Benny, pairing well with Murray’s Mimi. Clase and Ward were flawless, managing to capture all the little annoyances of relationships while simultaneously conveying a love that transcends the difficulties of life. Ward’s performance of “Over the Moon” left audiences in stiches, with a renewed sense of awe at the absolute lack of inhibition with which she belted the notes, as though she was born for exactly that role. However, the pair of Rissmiller and McClellan as Collins and Angel stole the show. Rissmiller claimed the hearts of the audience with the first notes that left his lips, effortlessly portraying a sense of innocence and kindheartedness. McClellan was absolute perfection as Angel, from the moment he took the stage in his sassy Santa coat to his dying breaths. The ensemble rounded out the show nicely, with a noteworthy performance of the hilariously mom-ish Mrs. Cohen and a soulful solo in “Seasons of Love.”
The pit was comprised of a mix of individuals: Steven Mea, Drum Kit/Percussion; John Schoenewald, Guitar I; Kyle Montondo, Guitar II; Sam Kelly, Bass with A. Scott Williams serving both as keyboardist and pit conductor.
The performance would not have been possible without the help of many individuals behind the scenes: Izzy Kainz, stage manager; Kristin Sims, musical director; José Garcia, musical director; Marion Wood O’Sullivan, choreographer/make-up design; Victor Capecce, technical director and scenic designer; Stacey Andrelcyk, costume designer; Keither Henninger, light designer; Michael Wiltraut, sound design; Seth Sponhouse, assistant director.