Performing arts ~ Ocean State Theatre ~ RENT

Ocean State Theatre
1245 Jefferson St.
Warwick, Rhode Island
Box Office: (401) 921-6800
Through March 10, 2013

UPDATE


OVER $2000 RAISED FOR AIDS CARE OCEAN STATE
DURING OSTC’S PRODUCTION OF RENT


WARWICK, RIOcean State Theatre Company (OSTC), the not-for-profit which brought new life to the historic Theatre By The Sea for the past five years, and AIDS Care Ocean State (ACOS), which has been providing essential services to persons living with HIV/AIDS in Rhode Island since 1990, teamed up for a fundraising week which coincided with OSTC’s recent production of Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony® Award-winning musical RENT.

Audiences who attended performances during the final weekend of the production had several opportunities to offer financial support to Rhode Island’s largest AIDS organization, including a bucket drive, similar to those conducted on “The Great White Way” by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.

“We were thrilled that the audiences attending our production generously donated $2,053 to benefit AIDS Care Ocean State,” said OSTC’s Producing Artistic Director, Amiee Turner. “ACOS is a valuable community asset and I am excited that our partnership not only brought this extraordinary production to a more diverse audience, but also assisted in raising community awareness about HIV and AIDS.”

Ocean State Theatre Company is currently presenting David Mamet’s provocative play, Race, which runs through April 14. Tickets are on sale at the box office Tuesday through Friday from 12 noon – 6:00 pm, Saturdays from 12 noon – 4:00 pm, and from 12 noon until curtain on performance days. Tickets are also available online 24 hours a day at www.OceanStateTheatre.org and via telephone during normal box office hours by calling (401) 921-6800.

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As the resident RENT aficionado, Bear has written this review...

As an avid fan of Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer and Tony-Award winning musical, RENT, I was very interested when Mom told me that we were going to the production at Ocean State Theatre in Warwick.

I was glad to see that the theater has stadium seats. We were in a rather prime spot, as a matter of fact, and had a good view of the performers and stage. The producing artistic director, Aimee Turner, gave a short, interesting speech, explaining how the theater had once been a garage, but that amazing renovation and construction work had been done, especially for today’s production. I really got the feeling of atmosphere for RENT, with the graffiti, trash bags, exposed wires and industrial structures onstage. I was excited to learn that for every production, a live orchestra plays all the music, and was also impressed with the art director, as she linked RENT to its original source, Puccini’s ‘La Boheme,’ because not many people know about the connection.

(from left) Nile Hawver and Dan McInerney star as Roger Davis and Mark Cohen in Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony® Award-winning rock opera RENT being presented at the new Ocean State Theatre in Warwick through March 10. For tickets call (401) 921-6800 or visit www.OceanStateTheatre.org.  photo by Mark Turek 

Mark Cohen, the filmmaker played by Anthony Rapp onstage look-alike Dan McInerney, started us out very well with the first number, ‘Tuneup A.’ Roger Davis, played by Nile Hawver, joined in and brought the needed edge that I found McInerney lacked. Similarly, in the next song, I found Mark’s mother, played, I believe, by ensemble member Christiana Rodi, lacking that annoying pitch to her voice which would have gone so well with the actual lyrics, and was featured in the original soundtrack in addition to the onstage production. Benjamin Coffin, III (Bennie), played by Din Griffin, however, has a distinct lisp that, while not taking away from his musical performance, definitely made him hard to understand at times.

(from left) Dan McInerney, Antonio Tillman, Nile Hawver and Damron Russel Armstrong star as Mark Cohen, Angel Dumott Schunard, Roger Davis and Tom Collins.  photo by Mark Turek 

Enter Angel Dumott Schunard, performed by Antonio Tillman, a veteran of the production and his character, who really surprised me with his musical prowess. ‘You Okay, Honey?” has always been a favorite opening number of mine in any musical for any character, so I was expecting to be overly critical. Mr. Tillman delivered in the best way, and continued to be one of the better performers during this showing. He also looks surprisingly good in a dress. On that note, I would like to add how happy I was to see the accuracy in Angel’s costumes throughout the play. Good job, Costume Designer Jill E. Tarr!

The character of Roger has never been my cup of tea, and his solo in the beginning, ‘One Song Glory,’ really never struck a chord for me. But Mr. Hawver, though lacking that hardened gruffness that is so Roger Davis, actually gave a rendition that didn’t make me want to cover my ears as I usually do. I loved the emotion he put into his work from start to finish. I will say, however, it seemed that sometime after intermission, Hawver strained his voice, which really affected his performance near the end. After his first solo was one of my favorite songs from the play,  “Light My Candle,” presenting Mimi Marquez as played by Nora Fox. I have a problem with this character. Call me overcritical, but I didn’t care for the Broadway version, done by Daphne Rubin-Vega, either.

Nile Hawver and Nora Fox star as Roger Davis and Mimi Marquez.  photo by Mark Turek 

The song, ‘Light My Candle,’ is one I am extra critical of, because it sets the bar for Mimi before her big solo in ‘Out Tonight.’ Immediately, I admired Ms. Fox's emotion and energy. You could really feel her getting into her role. I feel the same way about ‘Out Tonight,’ where her dancing and just the pure power of someone who is aware of their own sexuality shined brightly. Ms. Fox gave  the best rendition of ‘Without You’ that I’ve probably ever heard. Add that to her performance in ‘I Should Tell You,’ and I really think that she has the complete potential to get all the notes every time.

Seemed like the audio department had their work cut out for them. Several times throughout the performance, you could barely hear the performers because their microphones malfunctioned. This was a problem that continued fairly consistently through the whole production. The lighting, however, was great. It really set a good atmosphere, especially for the play’s namesake song, ‘Rent.’ The flashing lights only bothered me when they shone directly into my eyes, which temporarily made it very difficult to see the performers. Other than that, I thought they added a nice touch.



(from left) Janet McWilliams and Kendra Payne portray Maureen Johnson and Joanne Jefferson.  photo by Mark Turek 

Let’s go on to Joanne Jefferson, another character that didn’t catch my fancy in the original production. In this matinee, Joanne was performed by Kendra Payne, who played the character well, but also lost some of the best solos to members of the ensemble in ‘Seasons of Love.’ I will say that the woman who did do the solo was amazing. It actually made my jaw drop. I loved Ms. Payne’s body language in ‘Take Me Or Leave Me,’ as it really showed her exasperation, rigidity, and yet somehow a level of sexuality that you wouldn’t expect at first blush. Joanne’s lover and Mark’s ex-girlfriend, Maureen Johnson, was well represented in that song, too, and in the production generally, but nobody, not even Janet McWilliams, could make me like ‘Over the Moon.’ Nobody.

On the other hand, songs like 'Seasons of Love,' 'No Day But Today' and 'La Vie Boheme' were powerful and energetic.

The cast sings “La Vie Boheme”.  photo by Mark Turek 

All in all, I thought that the Ocean State Theatre’s rendition of RENT was a great performance, and I would definitely want to go back again, and would recommend it.


editor's/mom's note: Ocean State Theatre is combining its performance of RENT with AIDS awareness through handouts and literature.

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