STORY BY LUIS VALENCIA
Fort Hays State recently held a production of Rent at the Beach/Schmidt auditorium as a part of their annual Encore Series. Citizens of Hays and surrounding towns came to see the show on its 20th-anniversary tour. Multiple people walked directly into the auditorium and immediately began to talk about how excited they were to see Rent live. Some were unfamiliar with the musical and were excited to catch a glimpse at what the show was about.
When the lights finally went low and the stage lights rose, the audience immediately fell into a hush. The setting and design of the stage were simple yet magnificent. The characters seemed to fly to their lighting cues and marks right away. Overall the design wasn’t too overbearing and kept the show interesting. It seemed easy to navigate around as the characters left through hidden doors and the wings of the stage. During the production, they used LED lights that were strung across a metal sculpture. The whole set seemed to come to life after the first overture. I was kept on the edge of my seat the whole time.
The characters vocals had me in a trance, I was mesmerized by the perfect tone and intonation each character had. This made the show even more exciting, I was thrilled when I got to hear some of my favorite classics. The musical itself is provocative it deals with heavy matters such as drug abuse, sexuality, HIV, and sex. Overall the cast did a magnificent job of portraying the reality that the characters were living in.
Although I loved the majority of the musical there were some spots that had me questioning whether or not it was appropriate for the audience. There was an instance where there was some explicit activity being acted out on the stage. I gasped a little in my seat and there were some people who made comments after the show about the explicit action. The show could have done without it but at the end of the day, the arts are something I believe we shouldn’t have too many restrictions on.
There was some representation of drug abuse in the musical. The character MiMi was addicted to some illegal substance and finds it hard to quit. During her detox, the cast put on a tear-jerking display of how drugs can influence someone’s decisions and how they cope without it. They also showed the cruelty of HIV Aids and how it could swiftly snatch the life of anyone. When one of the main characters died they wrapped her up in a blanket and had the funeral on stage, and showed the character leaving this world and heading into a bright light that was featured on stage.
The choreography was also impressive, they used every part of the stage when performing in the musical numbers. The dancers used modern-day dances, that wowed the crowd. Some of the dances were incredibly intense, the crowd even cheered when one of the characters jumped on top of the table and danced on it. I was impressed by how much work they put into their dances.
Even though the musical was based on a taboo subject. The comedic value of the show had the audience rolling with laughter. They used voicemails from the character’s parents to provide some comic relief throughout the show. This really brightened up the show for the audience members.
Overall I loved this musical and I also love what the cast did with it.
The music was great and fun to listen to. Each dance was coordinated to each song perfectly, and each character was important throughout the whole show. I would definitely go see it again if it ever were to return to Hays.