‘RENT’ by Ottawa’s Orpheus Theatre Reply

Review by Sharon Letovsky

To Nicole Milne, artistic director for this show, congratulations, what an outstanding production! Was this really community theatre? Nah, couldn’t be! The acting was fantastic, the singing exceptional and the staging divine. Rent is a rock opera with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York’s Lower East Side under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

The cast was extremely well chosen for this production. The youth and freshness of these talented singers and actors bounced out at us from the stage and made us believe. All of the leads were particularly strong. Derek Eyamie was brilliant as Roger, and Maxim David’s Tom Collins brought tears to our eyes with his heart-wrenching delivery of “I’ll Cover You”. Rebecca Abbott’s voice was a standout in the role of Joanne, and Jeremy Sanders as Angel brought the house down. His singing could have been stronger and perhaps should have been pitched higher, but the audience loved him anyway.

In the movie version of this show, Angel is played much bigger. Being portrayed lower key, as was done here, made Angel quite believable. Devon O’Reilly’s Maureen was bold, wild, crazy and wonderful, while Andrea Black did a very creditable job as Mimi. What was really impressive was how the voices blended in chorus. Lovely! Congratulations to James Caswell, musical director. Excellent job! And while I had not been impressed with the sets and staging in this company’s previous production, White Christmas; in RENT, both were fantastic. Jennifer Donnelly did a marvelous job with the set. It was creative, well designed, and well used. Debbie Millett, choreographer, made excellent use of the entire stage, keeping movements both natural and effective. Congratulations, Orpheus Musical Theatre well done! RENT is playing at Centrepointe theatre, Ottawa; until March 11th.

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