Theater Review: ‘Rent’ Still Resonates with a New Generation of Theatergoers

I’ve always loved the rock musical Rent. It’s been such a big part of my life for a long time. And the current national tour, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of the show’s Broadway debut, did not disappoint. 

Rent is a show that boasts multiple powerhouses. Nearly every character has to have energy and a vocal range wide enough to hit notes a normal person could only dream of. In this production, the entire ensemble all performed with a heightened sense of emotion, as if they were performing for the musical’s creator Jonathan Larson himself. Larson died the night before the show opened in previews off-Broadway.

The current cast is led by Cody Jenkins and Coleman Cummings, playing the dynamic duo of Mark and Roger, two roommates living in New York’s East Village. The pair’s flair for mischief within their fraternal bond reminded me of my relationship with my own best friend. Joshua Tavares’ undeniable energy as the kindhearted drag queen Angel, along with Aiyana Smash’s wonderful portrayal of the troubled vixen Mimi, also stood out.

Certain moments in the show were more moving than others, including a soulful ballad performed by Shafiq Hicks (Tom Collins) that left even my stoic father near tears. And the dramatics of Kelsee Sweigard’s performance piece as Maureen had the entire audience hanging on her every word (no matter how crazy she sounded). 

Despite the talent and grandeur of the show as a whole, no show is without its flaws. Technical difficulties that I’m certain couldn’t be helped, and plot points that caused me to flinch and squirm in discomfort, make this production far from perfect. However, that is no fault of the cast and crew, all of whom put on a show that, despite its flaws and complications, left me buzzing with excitement and happiness. 

I was once asked if Rent was still relevant. At that time, I wasn’t sure what to say. Now I know. After seeing it live, and seeing parts of myself reflected on stage, especially in the current climate of the world we live in, Rent is still relevant, and will be for as long as it runs. 

Rent runs through Sunday at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For more information visit or the RDU on Stage Calendar Page.

Read Lauren Van Hemert’s RDU on Stage interview with Aiyana Smash here.

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