Rent: School Edition by Westtown School in West Chester, PA
February 8, 2017
Review submitted by Varun Andrews of Bordentown Regional High School
Devastated by poverty, drugs, and the AIDS epidemic, New York City was an extremely harsh environment for many in the late 1980’s. This New York City was brought to life in Westtown’s amazing production of Rent.
The revolutionary rock musical, Rent, delves into a number of dark themes such as homelessness, drug addiction, and queer life while exemplifying the resilience of the human spirit. With music, lyrics, and book by Jonathan Larson, Rent became an instant hit in the hearts and minds of its audiences, going on to win four Tony Awards and running on Broadway for a whopping twelve years.
If there is one idea that Rent tried to express more than others, it was the idea of love. This was easily visible with the cast as a whole from the opening number all the way to the finale. Although, the cast’s energy was lacking at some points, their exemplary chemistry made up for that and allowed Westtown to make the presentation of the story incredibly alluring.
The narrator of the story, Mark Cohen, was remarkably portrayed by Sally Harpster. Her strong acting skills coupled with her superb vocals allowed the production to go to greater heights. Tom Collins, who was played by Isaiah Fernandez, also delivered a noteworthy performance. Fernandez’s masterful voice, especially in the reprise of “I’ll Cover You”, melted audience’s hearts.
The real stars of the production though were Joanne and Maureen, portrayed by India Henderson and Maddie Kreitzberg respectively. Whether it was Joanne’s sensational solo in “Seasons of Love” or Maureen’s brilliant performance in “Over the Moon”, nothing compared to their jaw-dropping version of “Take Me or Leave Me”. Their voices blended beautifully resulting in a one-of-a-kind powerful performance.
The technical aspects of this production should not go unmentioned, as they developed and enhanced the production immensely. Balancing the sound of the band and the microphones was no easy task, but Westtown technical crew delivered beautifully with only a few mishaps. In addition, costumes for all characters were precisely chosen and complemented the time period marvelously.
Westtown’s production of Rent was filled with powerful performances, poignant climaxes, and priceless lessons. Rent reminds us that even though there are 525,600 minutes in a year to share the message of love, there’s no day but today to live and love.
Review submitted by Faith Warmhold of Delaware County Christian School
“You always said how lucky we were that we were all friends. But it was us, baby, who were the lucky ones.”
Jonathan Larson’s Rent is the story of seven friends who are all trying to get by in New York City during the early 1990’s. Each character is dealing with some issue, but whether it is AIDS, drug addiction, or grieving the death of a loved one, they all come together to try and forget their problems. Rent was an extremely popular show when it first came out because it was a rock opera, which was very appealing to the teens at the time. Unfortunately, Jonathan Larson died the day of the last dress rehearsal, so he did not live to see his show’s success.
Westtown gave a very captivating performance of Jonathan Larson’s Rent. All of the cast members got on stage and had fun with their songs and dances, which left the crowd energized and wanting more. Rent deals with a lot of very heavy topics, but the cast gave a very mature performance that helped show the audience what life can be like when dealing with these issues.
The actors and actresses in this musical gave very moving performances with their natural chemistry with one another and their strong vocals. Three people whose vocals were especially notable were Mercedes Horton (Mimi), India Henderson (Joanna), and Maddie Kreitzburg (Maureen). These three girls’ voices were strong and left everyone wanting more. All of the actresses and actors gave very mature performances, even if they were playing a character who had a different sexual orientation or gender than their own.
On top of performances, Lily Cunicelli did a great job of capturing the image of 1990’s fashion with the casts’ costumes. Whether they were homeless or a “rich jerk”, everyone was dressed in a typical and well thought out 1990’s outfit. The set was also very well built and helped transport us back to the 1990’s. Although it was sometimes hard to hear the orchestra, the five-person pit accompanied the cast beautifully. The cast also made a video that they projected on a wall during the end of the show which was a very nice touch, even though some of the video was obscured because there was a window in the way.
Overall the cast of Westtown’s Rent gave a very memorable and mature production that left us all wanting more.