RENT: School Edition by The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) in Philadelphia, PA
April 4, 2017
Review submitted by Victoria Kline of Academy of the New Church
“How do you measure a year in the life?” This is the question the students of the Philadelphia School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) asked, and answered in their moving production of RENT: School Edition last week.
RENT is a musical created by Jonathan Larson, based loosely off of the opera La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini. It follows a year in the lives of a group of poor artists living in New York City as they struggle through problems such as AIDS, poverty, and navigating relationships. Over the course of the musical these friends become family, and realize that only through coming together can they survive.
At the heart of the production was a tireless ensemble that brought every large number to life. There were no small parts or actors, as every member of the production acted even in the background. Beautifully executed choreography and vocals gave the streets of New York city a vibrant and raw vibe in songs like “La Vie Boheme” and the poignant “Seasons of Love”.
The plotline revolves primarily around seven friends, all struggling through a life of poverty and love. It begins with two roommates, Mark Cohen (Desi Flowers) and Roger Davis (Emmanuel Martinez-Zuviria), livening up their cold apartment with some music. These two led the production, capturing their characters’ quirks even in their vocal solos.
Mimi Marquez (Zami Buggs-King), the flamboyant neighbor of Roger and Mark, stood out for her incredible vocal talent and raw emotion. Angel Schunard (Cameren Sullivan) and Tom Collins (Murphy Applin, Jr.), two of their friends, acted as a dynamic duo on a rollercoaster of emotion and expression, from comedic moments such as Angel’s drag queen dancing to sad ones such as Collins’ moving solo in “I’ll Cover You”. Also notable was Maureen Johnson (Marissa Garcia), whose over-the-top antics in “Over the Moon” and powerhouse voice lent her character just the right amount of drama.
Perfectly picked costumes outfitted the talented cast, bringing to life the cold Bohemian Streets, and a strong, consistent band backed the upbeat music. Although there was some trouble with balance and microphone consistency, the cast worked through it admirably with energy through the roof.
So how do you measure a year in the life? The students of CAPA answered this question with their portrayal of these artists’ search for friendship in a time of struggle: it’s not in daylights, or sunsets, or cups of coffee, but in love.
Review submitted by Marissa Emerson of Upper Merion Area HS
With a thousand sweet kisses, the cast of The Creative and Performing Arts High School’s (CAPA) production of RENT: School Edition graced audiences.
With a story loosely based on the Opera by Giacomo Puccini, La Boheme, RENT tells the story of eight friends living in New York during the 1980’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Reaching a fame at its premiere equivalent to today’s Hamilton, RENT’s toe-tapping rock score was written by the late Jonathan Larson, who also wrote its compelling script.
Starting the show with a bang, CAPA’s ensemble opened the floodgates, releasing a wave of sound placed somewhere tastefully between musical prowess and energetic shouting. Though diction frequently suffered, the energy when the full ensemble was on stage was infectious nonetheless.
Murphy Applin Jr. (Tom Collins) and Cameren Sullivan (Angel) played off of each other with a flirtatious charm and certainty notable to anyone with a pulse! “Today for You” featured Sullivan’s multitasking talents as he confidently vogued, strutted, and cart-wheeled across the stage in heels most women would have nightmares about attempting. Moving audience members to tears, Applin Jr.’s touching rendition of “I’ll Carry You (reprise)” featured the ensemble’s gospel sound, as he performed the song with a luscious vocal tone and indescribable emotional weight. With a crescendo building throughout the entire song, his artist choice to end the piece, instead, on a light, sweet falsetto note was the perfect choice; the neatly placed bow on any well-wrapped gift.
Zami Buggs-King (Mimi Marquez) flattered with her stunning vocal tonality and sensual stride. When pacing seemed to falter, Marissa Garcia (Maureen Johnson) was always one step ahead, raising energy levels with each audacious acting choice. While the hilarity of her solo number, “Over the Moon,” was the focal point, Garcia showed off her flexibility and stamina with each high kick and back bend. Showing depth, Garcia’s monologue in “Halloween,” utilized well-placed pauses, showing a thoughtfulness and understanding to its heavy content.
Marketing posters for the show were student designed and captured the 80’s urban essence of the show with its rough edged photographs and pops of color. Costumes created by students were also stylish and chic for the time period.
Offering a treat, The Philadelphia Creative and Performing Arts High School’s production of RENT: School Edition moved audiences with their well voiced performance, leaving one reflective question hanging in the air as audiences left: How will you spend your 525,600 minutes?