RENT, directed by Seanna Kennedy (featuring music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson and based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La Bohème), is the face of musicals. Everyone knows it; it is the poster boy of musical theatre, which means that whoever decides to put on a production of it has a heavy obligation to do it well. I have seen RENT five times in my life and I have enjoyed it more and more each time. However, the Lower Ossington Theatre’s production of RENT has by far topped every performance thus far.
Set in New York City under the shadow of AIDS, a group of poor artists is trying to survive. The show follows filmmaker Mark Cohen (Adam Turgeon) and his rock musician roommate Roger (Sam Migliazza) as they struggle to create a life for themselves. Throughout the show, we follow the relationships of Collins (Andrew Perry) an anarchist professor and his love interest Angel (Evan Benyacar), as well as the relationship of Maureen (Emma Gibney) and Joanne (Sara Wilkinson). Roger also begins a relationship with a heroin addict named Mimi (Tiera Watts).
Many of the characters struggle with the emotional toll of having HIV/AIDS. This horrible disease, which is destroying them inside, is also the one thing holding them all together. The camaraderie of the characters is what makes the show that much more powerful. From an audience perspective, you feel a strong connection to each and every character.
The great thing about a show such as RENT is the excitement that buzzes before the show begins. The audience knows what to expect, but at the same time, can’t wait to see how it is done.
The dance numbers were fun, they were loud and it was fantastic the way the actors moved about the space; it helped to create a completely dynamic visual for the audience to enjoy. The actors would hang from the platforms, climb the chain-link fences and, in Angel’s case, flip about the stage acrobatically, creating a sense of danger which thrilled the audience even more. Director Seanna Kennedy truly helped shape this production into its own unique experience.
LOT’s Director of Production Michael Galloro designed the set for RENT. He never seizes to amaze with his ability to manipulate the space for each show that he designs. With RENT, the space truly felt grungy. With the chain-link fences, the platforms, and the depth of the stage, Galloro managed to make the space feel both massive and very intimate at different points throughout the show.
The entire cast was spectacular; however, special mention deservedly goes to Sam Migliazza for his portrayal of Roger. Not only did he fit the role perfectly, but his voice was truly one that stood out to me.
To put on a production of RENT, a company is taking on a massive challenge. The LOT stood up to that challenge and met it with top quality and an abundance of pride. It’s a fantastic showing by all involved.
RENT is playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre until April 26. For more information visit
photo credit: Seanna Kennedy