Rent: School Edition by Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, PA
March 21, 2017
Review submitted by Harleigh Myerovich of Harriton High School
How does one measure the legacy of love? This past Saturday, the Colonial Players of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School offered an answer to this most human of questions in their production of Rent: School Edition.
Rent, with book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, follows a group of struggling artists of New York City’s East Village. The Colonial Players did a phenomenal job in tackling this challenging production. A talented cast anchored this poignant musical, navigating difficult subject matter with utmost poise and sincerity.
Cole Walther, as narrator and filmmaker Mark Cohen, tactfully embodied his character with strong vocals, providing smooth transitions from scene to scene. Alongside him, Jack Travis earnestly belted his emotional rock ballads as Roger Davis, a former rock frontman grappling with his HIV-positive status. In the role of Mimi Marquez, Federica Andino-Vega impressed the audience with her powerful vocals and physical embodiment of the seductive club dancer.
As the boisterous activist Maureen Johnson, Lauren Quigley belted her songs of defiance with aplomb, embracing both the comedy and indignation of “Over The Moon” with equal deference. In the role of anarchist and NYU professor, Tom Collins, Colin Mash commanded the stage in each of his scenes with a heartfelt performance. As the ever-generous Angel Schunard, Collins’ partner, Robert Gervasi captured the effervescent spirit of his beloved character. Together, Mash and Gervasi had unparalleled chemistry which was palpable in songs and scenes alike. In the tender duet “I’ll Cover You,” the two assuredly portrayed the loving couple, leaving tears in the eyes of the audience.
The PWHS Scenic Design Team did a remarkable job in crafting an abstract Alphabet City from pallets, ladders, fences and scrap metal. The PWHS Stage Crew executed each set change smoothly and efficiently, rolling platforms and set pieces frequently throughout the show. Though, at times, there were issues with microphones and sound levels, the PWHS Sound Team impressively handled twenty-three microphones altogether throughout the production.
Perhaps most impressive, however, was the PWHS Marketing Team’s efforts to ground their production in community outreach and education. In partnering with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, distributing guitar picks to the middle school and local music schools in order to advertise the show, and educating the school community about the issues presented in Rent, Plymouth Whitemarsh demonstrated a sustained effort to engage the community in empathetic consideration of the musical’s cultural context.
With heart, energy and a spirit of philanthropy, the Colonial Players left the audience “over the moon” as they ended their 2016-2017 season with this successful production.
Review submitted by Lea Harlev of Archmere Academy
“Rent, rent, rent, rent, rent, we’re not gonna pay rent!” thundered through Plymouth Whitemarsh High School’s theater as the Colonial Players performed Rent: School Edition.
With book, music, and lyrics created by the late Jonathan Larson and based on the opera La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini, Rent details a year in the lives of seven struggling artists in New York City’s Alphabet City in the midst of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Despite some minor changes to language and the omission of the song “Contact,” Rent: School Edition possessed the same complex characters and powerful message as the original musical.
Cole Walther perfectly embodied the awkward, but lovable filmmaker that is Mark Cohen. Walther’s timing and character choices were both impeccable. As the other male lead, Jack Travis (Roger Davis) conveyed great passion with his commanding presence and powerful vocals. Federica Andino-Vega as Mimi Marquez owned the stage with her stunning voice and impressive acting skills. Together, Travis and Andino-Vega touched the audience with their intense onstage chemistry, which was especially evident during the intimate “Light My Candle” and “Without You.”
Tom Collins (Colin Mash) and Angel Schunard (Robert Gervasi) stood out as another dynamic duo. The two actors beautifully executed both tender and heartbreaking moments of their characters’ relationship onstage. Mash’s soulful vocals, in particular, brought a new level of warmth to every scene in which he appeared. Kamiah Gray and Lauren Quigley as Joanne Jefferson and Maureen Johnson both demonstrated immense dedication to their characters as they beautifully belted the fiery duet “Take Me Or Leave Me.”
The ensemble as a whole carried out an exceptional performance. The full, robust sound in group numbers such as “Rent” and “Finale B” resonated throughout the entire theater. In particular, the Support Group ensemble skillfully acted as a cohesive unit and generated a balanced sound complete with tight harmonies.
With student-created sets and lighting, the actors had a very fitting backdrop for their performance. The intricate set contained many levels and interesting elements such as ladders and fences that each fit with the energy of the show quite well. The dramatic application of the lights throughout the production enhanced the performance; the lighting especially assisted the storytelling when spotlights highlighted individual moments amidst a crowded stage.
With their poignantly relevant performance of Rent: School Edition, the Colonial Players empowered audience members to measure their lives “in love.”