Rent 20th Anniversary Tour: Seasons of love still flourishes


As the Rent 20th Anniversary Tour plays sold-out theaters, the poignant story of love, tolerance, and resolve still resonates with audiences.

Some musicals capture a pivotal moment in time. Rent 20th Anniversary Tour brings that desperation-yet-hope of the late 1990s culture back to the stage. Even though some audience members may have never used an answering machine or heard of a beeper, the character-driven stories have a timeless quality. Love, in all its forms, is still the driving force of a fulfilled life.

Many, many years ago, I recall sitting in the Nederlander Theater memorized by the raw emotions coming from the performances. While the original cast of Rent might have been less known at the time, those actors went onto greatness. Who would have thought that woman encouraging everyone to moo in “Over the Moon” would be the voice of the song that no one can let go? The same can be said for the numerous, now well-known actors that completed the ensemble.

Rent and its modern interpretation of La Boheme had a huge impact on modern theater. From breaking the fourth wall to a modern score to a stripped-down set, many of the characteristics of this musical have woven themselves into other musicals. Has anyone really thought about the set similarities between Rent and Hamilton? The sparse, never changing stage is just a backdrop to the emotionally driven performances of the actors.

Rent 20th Anniversary Tour, photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center, Credit Carol Rosegg, 2017

Currently on tour, Rent 20th Anniversary Tour brought the iconic late 1990s story to the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando, Florida. Playing to a packed house, the audience empathized with the trials and tribulations of this family. From the highpoints of euphoria to the depths of despair, the emotional arc of this story leaves the audience with a sense of hope. While people may only “rent” love, that love guides everyone through her life’s journey.

Some of Rent’s topics may not be as prevalent today as they were then, but the core values of this musical are still very much part of today’s culture. Acceptance, tolerance, and love are constantly being challenged in today’s society. HIV and AIDS might not be on the continuous news cycle like in the late 1990s, but acceptance and tolerance is.

Rent 20th Anniversary Tour, photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center, Credit Carol Rosegg, 2017

Looking around a theater located in a city whose LGBTQ community was devastated by an act of terror, the musical’s broader topics are even more important today. Sure, people may be more open to expressing their love for one another, but there is a fear to that openness. The audience’s reactions, both exuberant for some numbers and subdued for others, follow the world’s current dichotomy.

Rent’s songs are iconic. Songs like “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme” are known beyond the theater world. At the opening night performance, the smaller, more poignant songs seemed to have a bigger impact on the audience. For example, the small number “Will I” had everyone hushed in solemn contemplation. The agony of wondering if someone will care if you wake tomorrow could be felt in each subtle note. I don’t know how anyone could not be affected by that song.

Rent 20th Anniversary Tour, photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center, Credit Carol Rosegg, 2017

While the love story between Rodger and Mimi is the bigger storyline, the love between Collins and Angel seemed to resonate more with the opening night crowd. Of course Angel’s exuberant performance (Javon King) of “Today 4 U” thrills audiences, the raw emotion in “I’ll Cover You” shows a love affair that anyone would wish for. When Collins (Devinre Adams) returns to sing “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” the anguish that he feels for losing his beloved is heart-wrenching.

Overall, the touring production of Rent is an emotionally charged night of theater. From the quiet moments of reflection to the rousing moments inspiring everyone to take action, the musical encourages the audience to want and to do more. Whether it is to love harder or to treat others more fairly, everyone has a moment of inspiration after watching this show.

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Currently, Rent 20th Anniversary Tour is playing at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando through June 10. If you have never seen Rent, don’t miss the opportunity to see the touring production. Even if you’ve never used an answering machine or seen a beeper, the story of this love and acceptance is timeless.