Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Winston Churchill High School RENT: School Edition

By • Oct 27th, 2008 • Category: Cappies

Here’s to drag queens, AIDS, and the taboo. Here’s to emotion, devotion, and to causing a commotion. Here’s to la vie boheme! This last weekend, Winston Churchill certainly did cause a commotion with their rendition of RENT: School Edition, that sparkled with its bohemian energy.

RENT, written by Jonathan Larson, is loosely based on Puccini’s opera La Bohéme. The story evolves around a group of friends clinging to the ideals of bohemia while living in New York City. Roger, Mimi, Tom, and Angel must learn to cope with AIDS while also struggling to find happiness in the world. Maureen, ever the performing diva, struggles with infidelity and with her partner Joanne. And Mark, constantly behind his camera, never seems to be completely included in his friends’ lives.

The characters and story lines in Winston Churchill’s production of RENT: School Edition are very mature but the actors tackled them admirably. The cast seemed very dedicated in their character portrayals yet sometimes motivation and blocking seemed a little forced. However, the cast’s exceptional singing abilities really elevated the show. From large group numbers to duets, each character harmonized well and also displayed good range.

Josh Kaufmann, who portrayed artsy and adorable Mark Cohen, struck a nice balance between realistically conveying the character and also being aware of the audience’s presence. His bright energy and chemistry with the cast anchored the show. Sonya Lilienstein‘s stage presence was formidable as Maureen Johnson. Her expressive rendition of “Over the Moon” was captivating and her vocals had a unique and enjoyable Janis Joplin-like quality. Josh Simon handled his character, Angel Dumott Schunard, with maturity and understanding, along with a hefty dash of pizazz! Despite the difficult subject matter, Simon came across as genuine and touching.

As Tom Collins, Josh Coyne‘s deep and resonant voice glided smoothly over every note. His singing effectively captured his emotion, which was particularly powerful in the “I’ll Cover You Reprise.” Another vocal standout was Shelby Sykes, whose impressive range and great technical control was highlighted in the song “Seasons of Love.” Her singing had a beautiful tone and was also full of heart.

The props and effects, done by Lindsay Horikoshi, Nina Katz, and Stasia Emmanuelidis, added another dimension to the stage, making for a more believable atmosphere. The faux snow and fog were very nice touches. The RENT Band tackled the syncopated rock music very well and utilized different dynamics expressively. The Band balanced nicely with the cast’s singing.

So here’s to days of inspiration, to going against the grain, going insane, going mad-with love for Churchill’s performance of RENT. La vie boheme!

RENT: The School Edition will be performed again this weekend on October 31st and November 1st at 7:30PM. Don’t miss it.

by Katie Stolp of James Madison High School

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