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Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Winters Lane Productions Rent

By • Oct 14th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Rent by Jonathan Larson
Winters Lane Productions
Mt. Vernon Place, United Methodist Church, Washington DC
Through October 24th
$18
2:15, with one intermission
Reviewed October 10th, 2009

Many are familiar with Jonathan Larson’s Rent. Sadly Rent has recently closed on Broadway after a 12 year run. Being one of the first theatres in the metro area to perform Rent after its closing on Broadway, Winters Lane Productions has a lot to live up to. Unfortunately Winters Lane Productions fell short in many areas in their performance this past Saturday. In a theatre full of eager theatergoers and infamous “Rentheads,” many in the audience were looking to experience the magic that Rent has to offer, but it wasn’t quite there.

Weak vocals were primarily the detriment of this production. In a show that is built around performers with strong controlled voices, many of the voices were just too weak to keep the momentum going. The strongest parts of the show were during ensemble pieces such as “Rent,” “Life Support,” and “Will I?” but individual voices struggled. Without the vocals, this show in particular suffers. While the message and beauty of the show are compelling on its own, it is not enough to get by.

Miriam Pulto who played Mimi Marquez was one of the more compelling performers with a strong voice. Miriam was able to pull off the energetic upbeat “Out Tonight” as well as the soft ballad “Without You.” Troy Hopper played Benjamin Coffin III which is one of the smaller roles, but Hopper stood out due to his strong vocals and characterization.

In one of the main roles, Gary-Kayi Fletcher struggled vocally as Roger. Fletcher strained through numbers such as “One Song Glory,” and “What you Own.” Mark Cohen played by Ryan DeVoe certainly had a beautiful voice when singing within his range. Higher notes pushed him past his limit, and like Fletcher caused him to strain often resulting in notes off key.

Jamie Erin Miller truly captured the free spirit that is Maureen Johnson during the number “Over the Moon,” as well as throughout the production. John-Michael d’Haviland played a charismatic Tom Collins. Lots of energy and personality came from Joey Frollo as Angel Schunard who provided most of the laughter in the show. Genevieve Williams found a lot of humor in her role as Joanne Jefferson.

Set Design provided by NCB Construction, Jason Kimmell and Ryan Devoe were resourceful in utilizing the small space offered at Mount Vernon. Posters, street signs, trash cans and Christmas lights were very reminiscent of the set design typically seen in a Rent show; transporting you to the East Village in New York. Staging wise, every inch of the theatre was used, and it never felt cluttered despite the large cast. This could have potentially been a detriment to the show if it was not staged well.

Costume designer Anya Randall Nebel did a wonderful job at producing costumes that resembled those worn in the Broadway production. It is a mystery as to where she found the Metallic blue pants that are so famously worn by Mimi Marquez during “Out Tonight,” and the wonderfully fashioned Santa outfit worn by Angel in “Today 4 U.” In general props to Nebel for her work.

Overall the show had many flaws, which may be disheartening more so for those who are familiar with the musical. Those new to Rent who see this production may be a little bit more forgiving, but the “Rentheads,” may not be as passive.

Cast

  • Roger Davis: Gary-Kayi Fletcher
  • Mark Cohen: Ryan DeVoe
  • Tom Collins: John-Michael d’Haviland
  • Benjamin Coffin III: Troy Hopper
  • Joanne Jefferson: Genevieve Williams
  • Angel Schunard: Joey Frollo
  • Mimi Marquez: Miriam Pulto
  • Maureen Johnson: Jamie Erin Miller
  • Roger’s Mom, Vendor, and others: Katie Anderson
  • Alexi Darling, Pam and others: Erin Confair
  • Allie, Dancer, and others: Melissa Chanselle-Hary
  • Steve, Cop, and others: Robbie Dinsmore
  • Mrs. Jefferson Homeless Woman, “Season of Love” Soloist, and others: Michelle Harmon
  • Gordon, Pastor, Drug Dealer, and others: Kevin Ray Johnson
  • Mr. Jefferson, Paul, “Season of Love” Soloist, and others: Will Lewis, III
  • Mrs. Cohen and others: Esther Oakley
  • Homelss Man and others: Aaron Reeder
  • Squeegie Guy, Waiter, and others: Chris Rudy
  • Vendor, Mimi’s Mom and others: Emily Sergo
  • Santa Fe Dancers: Melissa Chanselle-Hary, Robbie Dinsmore, Emily Sergo
  • Understudies
    • Roger: Aaron Reeder; Mark: Chris Rudy
    • Angel: Robbie Dinsmore
    • Maureen: Emily Sergo; Joanna: Michelle Harmon
    • Benny: Wil Lewis, III; Collins: Kevin Ray Johnson

Production Staff

  • Executive Producer: Anya Randall Nebel
  • Producers: Sonia Truesdale, Shelly Jennings, Susan Davis
  • Director: Anya Randall Nebel
  • Music Director: Tiffany K. Underwood
  • Choreographer: Jason M. Kimmell
  • Lighting Design: Jason Aufdem-Brinke
  • Costume Design: Anya Randall Nebel
  • Set Desgin: NCB Construction, Jason Kimmell, Ryan Devoe
  • Sound Design: Jason Wilson
  • Sound Technician: Brian Butler
  • Video Concept: Anya Randall Nebel
  • Video Production: Jay Chapin (Dreamstar Video)
  • Production Stage Manager: Keith Summers
  • Backstage Crew Chief: Melissa Chanselle-Hary
  • Dance Captain: Robbie Dinsmore
  • Advertising and Marketing: Anya Randall Nebel, Genevieve Williams
  • Poster Design: David Gregory
  • Consultant: Genevieve Williams
  • Mount Vernon Place Operations Manager: Chris Weathers

A note from the Director

Ladies and Gentlemen: Welcome to Winters Lane Productions and our production of Jonathan Larson’s Rent. If you are new to our work, please visit our home on the web at www.winterlaneproductions.org to get acquainted with us. We are new to the DC area and we would love to continue to bring good quality theatre to this area at a fraction of the cost.

I want to thank you all for coming to tonight’s production. We are blessed to have one of the finest casts, and honored to be one of the first of many to bring this show to the community after it had been on Broadway for so many years. My intention was to adapt Jonathan Larson’s words and music to my vision rather than copying Broadway. After all, no one can repeat the phenomenon that captured an audience 14 years, won several Tony Awards and a Pulitizer Prize. Any why should we?

I walked into Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church on a cold afternoon in March. I was greeted with enthusiasm and kindness by the church community. I instantly knew that this place would be the home for this piece. My belief is that the audience will fall in love with these characters again, and hold them close to their hearts forever. I took some risk to ensure that none of us would forget. Forget what you ask? Sit back for the next 2 hours and 15 minutes to be exact, and then you will know.

Finally, I want to publicly thank my cast and my wonderful production staff. I suffered my own loss recently when I lost my father in July. The pain is still present, but the theme “no day but today!” rings truer still. This reminds me of how short life is, and how this show, these words, and this cast pulled me through the darkest moment I can imagine.

Measure your life in love!

Anya Randall Nebel

Special Thanks

The producers of Rent would like to extend their utmost gratitude to the following individuals and organizations for their assistance in making this production possible: Jerry Rankin, Kacey Crawford, Genevieve Williams, Shawn DeVoe, John-Michael d’Haviland, FUZZ Roarke of Spotlighters Theatre, Doug Chanselle-Hary of Academy of Holy Cross, and Stephanie Williams of Drama Learning Center.

Disclaimer: Winters Lane Productions provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is currently a student in the theatre arts program at Howard University pursuing a B.F.A in acting. Her plans are to go on to grad school to study Voice and Speech. Her credits include work on and off the stage, and she can be seen in the upcoming production of The Laramie Project with the Providence Players.

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