Rent still rocks after all these years

The cast of the Rent 20th Anniversary Tour at PPAC.

The cast of the Rent 20th Anniversary Tour at PPAC.

The Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) hosts the 20th Anniversary Tour of the classic musical, which features dazzling performances and a lot of heart.

Composer Jonathan Larson did not live to see the global phenomenon his show would become, famously dying from an aortic aneurysm the night after the final dress rehearsal just before its off-Broadway opening in 1996. Rent developed a hugely loyal following over the years and for good reason: these characters are endearing and colorful. Loosely based on Puccini’s La bohème, the story focuses on a group of friends and lovers struggling against poverty and the AIDS epidemic.

Rent at PPAC. L-R: Kaleb Wells as Roger, Danny Harris Kornfeld as Mark.

Rent at PPAC. L-R: Kaleb Wells as Roger, Danny Harris Kornfeld as Mark.

Mark (Danny Harris Kornfeld) and Roger (Kaleb Wells) are starving artists who share a grungy New York City apartment in the Alphabet City of the 1990s. Mark is an aspiring filmmaker and Roger is a musician.

Their former roommate and now real-estate mogul Benny (Christian Thompson) has bought the apartment building where Mark and Roger live and the vacant lot next door. Benny wants to build a high-tech cyber arts studio on the property.

Rent at PPAC. Skyler Volpe as Mimi.

Rent at PPAC. Skyler Volpe as Mimi.

Meanwhile, Mark’s ex-girlfriend Maureen (Katie Lamark) is in love with Joanne (Jasmine Easler) for whom she left him. Roger becomes smitten with Mimi (Skyler Volpe), an exotic dancer. There is also Angel (David Merino), an HIV-positive trans woman, and Angel’s boyfriend Tom Collins (Aaron Harrington), a tech anarchist and professor at New York University.

The performances make this show a standout. Volpe was enormously appealing as Mimi, especially her poignant balled duet with Wells, “Without You.” Lamark’s Maureen radiated tremendous sex appeal as she sang “Over the Moon.” Merino and Harrington are hugely charming as Angel and Tom.

Paul Clay’s set design, which consists of a two-tiered loft, is appropriately spartan.

Rent has endured as long as it has for a simple reason: It is about love in the midst of tragedy. Based on the polished, high-energy production displayed here, the show is bound to live on for at least another 20 years.

Rent 20th Anniversary Tour, Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St, PVD. Through April 9. Telephone: (401)421-ARTS (2787) Web: https://www.ppacri.org/events/detail/rent-20

 

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