According to the song “Seasons of Love,” a year is made up of 525,600 minutes. Jonathan Larson’s Tony-award winning musical Rent tells the story of how eight friends spend those 525,600 minutes in late 90’s New York. During this year, they deal with new love, bigotry, AIDS, and death.
Very enthusiastic and personable Jeffrey Higgins plays Mark, the filmmaker roommate of Roger (Jordan David Kline). Kline delivers the best performance in the show, perfectly portraying a washed-up rock star struggling with AIDS, and his performance of “Your Eyes” brought tears to my eyes. The guys’ friend Tom Collins (Edward Daniels) has a sweet voice (especially during “Seasons of Love”), and he seems truly enamored with the exuberant Angel (Danny Durr).
Mark’s ex-girlfriend Maureen is played by Lauren Elizabeth Wahl, who portrays her comical character as a cross between Carol Burnett and Kathy Griffin. While she is very funny during “Over the Moon,” she is very off-key during “Take Me or Leave Me.” Maureen’s girlfriend Joanne is played by Patricia Targette. Targette expertly tackles the fast-paced song “We’re Okay,” but she plays the character of tough Joanne with too much perkiness. Chelsea E. Davis’s Mimi is incredibly beautiful and oozes sex appeal during “Out Tonight.” Sadly, I could barely hear her during the entire first act – and when I could hear her – many of her notes were off-key. Davis and Kline were charmingly awkward during “Light My Candle,” but it was disappointing not be able to hear Davis’s lyrics. She could be heard better during the second act and sang “Without You” beautifully, but her voice lacks the volume to handle the more upbeat numbers. Rhett Wolford plays the role of Benjamin adequately.
Director Don Whisted and Danny Durr (who is in charge of Musical Staging) made some creative choices in adding percussion to the show, including beating on the metal ladders and tables that make up the majority of the set. Joe Thompson’s lighting is lovely, especially during “Without You.” Wendy Snow’s costumes are hit and miss — Angel’s shower curtain dress is precious, but Maureen’s clothes are a better fit for the early 80’s.
While the show needs a great deal of work, there are some magical moments. Most importantly, Rent tells a beautiful story that truly encourages you to “measure your life in love.”
Running time: 2 1/2 hours, including one intermission.
Rent plays through July 31st at The Cumberland Theatre – 103 North Johnson Street, Cumberland, MD. To order tickets, call (301) 759-4990. The show runs for 2 ½ hours including an intermission.