The IU Department of Theatre and Drama’s Musical Theatre Program is putting on a terrific production of Jonathan Larson’s Rent. The acting is solid. The fervent singing is so on pitch, it’s eerie. Every consonant and vowel in the libretto is right there. The solos are good; the ensembles are even better. The dancing ranges from subtle movement pieces to full-out, yet precise mayhem.
The Heart Quartet
At the heart of Rent are four, intertwined love stories that play out on the streets of downtown New York under the shadows of poverty and AIDS in the ’80s. Mark, the cinematographer, has been dumped by the performance artist Maureen for Joanne, the civil rights lawyer. Tom, the philosopher, is attacked by some muggers and found by Angel, the drag queen. The musician, Roger, is tempted by but dumps Mimi, the dancer, who flirts with Bennie the landlord, whom she dumps.
For the finale, the whole cast – and the audience – sings the show’s hit “Seasons of Love.” “525,600 minutes” (the number of minutes in a year) is simple; the same could be said for the sophistication of the sentiments, but I cheerfully joined the crowd for the song and its resulting standing ovation.
Of the three roommates, CJ Pawlikowski as Tom Collins has the least space, but he seems to be able to make the most human connections. Cosmo Clemens does a lovely job as Angel, the energetic and sympathetic drag queen doomed to die of AIDS. Gina Ricci played a potent Mimi, especially in her song “Out Tonight.” Chloe Williamson sang a hit like a hit with Maureen’s theater piece “Over the Moon.”
Direction and choreography are by George Pinney. Terry LaBolt is the music director and leads the quintet from the keyboard. The varied, attractive and interesting costuming is by Jason Orlenko.