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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Light me a candle

As much of an avid RENT fan as I claim to be, I sadly have never once seen a live staging of this classic musical. Even though I’ve watched many hazy clips of the Broadway version on Youtube, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to see actors acting and singing the musical in front of me. Lucky for me, Studio 301, a student acting company on campus, chose my all-time favorite musical to put on for Spring 2012. And that’s how I found myself standing outside the Wyatt Theater a few days before their opening night eager with anticipation to see how Studio 301’s version of RENT would turn out.

Inside the theater, the lights were low and glow-in-the-dark posters dotted the walls to convey a club-like atmosphere. The stage in the center had a table and a man wearing torn clothing was falling asleep in a nearby chair. There was also a telephone booth across from center stage and wire fences dotted the back of the stage.

For those who have never heard of RENT, it’s a story about a group of friends trying to make their dreams a reality in the harsh landscape of New York City. There’s a wide range of seemingly outrageous characters that are just as human as all of us.

As I’ve said before, I’ve only ever watched the film version of RENT. Studio 301’s staging of RENT is different because it follows the original script. I found it intriguing because the original script definitely plays up human interaction.

For example, the voice messages from the concerned parents are all sung. And frankly, I can’t imagine anything more embarrassing than having your mother sing out loud that you should keep your chin up and that it doesn’t matter if your girlfriend turned lesbian, right?

For the preview, the character of Angel, the drag queen with a heart of gold, was played by Ulysses Morazan instead of Jason Phillips, who was sick. Morazan shone ridiculously in his role of Angel. If we were in kindergarten, Angel would be the new kid who I wanted to be best friends with, forever and ever.

Another standout was Malia Abayon as Mimi. Abayon’s Mimi is a sensual creature who, I’m sure after the makeup has been wiped away, was just a little girl mesmerized by all that New York and its underground world had to offer. All the actors were powerful in their own rights, but you should trust my opinions after you’ve seen the play. An interesting aspect of this RENT was that they had their own live band playing the music to all the songs — giving off an intimate feeling. The actors aren’t only restricted to the stage. In fact, they slink around the seats, interacting with the audience.

At two-and-a-half hours with an intermission, RENT sounds a bit long. But, time passed by so fast as I got caught up singing along with the actors and seeing how they dealt with the many difficulties of life.

As the actors left the stage for one last time, but not before singing the infamous “Seasons of Love,” I reminisced about the messages that the play contained.

Life is difficult, everybody can agree, but it’s when we find our state of happiness that life seems to shine just a bit brighter. In regards with Studio 301’s staging of RENT, it was a performance filled with passion and love. Admittedly, these student actors don’t have the vocal ranges of Broadway musical stars, but they wiped that away with their zeal and commitment to their roles. Overall, I enjoyed this version of RENT very much, and if given the chance to see it again, I definitely will take that offer.

RENT runs tonight through this Sunday, the 20th.
All shows are at 8 p.m., Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
Performances take place at Wyatt Pavillion
To purchase tickets, contact the UCD Ticket Office at (530) 752-1915
Students $14
General $16

MICHELLE RUAN can be contacted at arts@theaggie.org.

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