Broadway in Boston is back with a Rent farewell tour. This invitation to preview Rent was my first musical back in Boston. Similarly to Broadway in NYC vaccination cards or negative COVID tests are checked as you enter the theatre and audience members are masked. Rent’s 25th Anniversary Farewell tour opened on October 12th and will play in Boston through October 17th. At The Boch Center Shubert Theatre they do have intermission and refreshments. People were good about wearing masks when not drinking or eating. One difference you will also find more often in the theatre now is virtual programs. Look for a QR code on tour way to your seats in the lobby to scan for your program.
We are all still in the midst of coping with a pandemic. The effects of COVID are broad and the repercussions long term. Before COVID, the only other pandemic that I have lived through was the AIDS pandemic. One of the major difference between the two pandemics is the population affected. At the end of the millennia, in 1989, there was a two layer pandemic AIDS and homophobia.
While Rent feels very 1989, the musical itself does not feel dated. Audience members who lived through those years, made up most of the audience. While progress is slow, watching Rent in a room full of couples of all gender combinations, and varying ages, donning designer collab Target dresses to Pride shirts and hats, felt very different than watching it in 1996. The audience was perhaps more closeted in 1996 and while neither audience may know what it is like to live without heat or electricity, we have all been affected by life in a pandemic.
As for the performance itself. I have to say that Shafiq Hicks stole the show along with Javon King. Hicks’ voice was as rich and smooth as butter and thick and sweet as honey. His acting was no less stellar. Lyndie Moe was a perfectly dramatic and talented Maureen matched so well with Rayla Garske’s Joanne. In addition to these standout performers, I wanted more of Charlotte Odusanya who made every role she played stand out. I think she would be an incredible Mimi.
Aiyana Smash (Mimi), Cody Jenkins (Mark), and Coleman Cummings (Roger) all had excellent performances with some of my favourite moments in the show, but seemed inconsistent. On the other hand, writer Jonathan Larson, may have been a bit of a masochist because the non stop power songs these leads had to belt out took incredible strength and stamina. I am not a performer so I don’t have a clue what it takes but I have no doubt that coming back after a pandemic has all sorts of challenges. All in all the show was excellent and I highly recommend taking advantage of this Farewell Tour to catch Rent before it disappears like the first flakes of snow hitting a city sidewalk.
My one wish is that the cast would sing Seasons of Love one last time at the end of the show. I also want to give a shout out to the supporting characters and musicians. There were times I found myself drawn just to their performances on stage. As an ensemble it was top tier.
Rent is playing at The Boch Center Shubert through Sunday, October 17th.