“Rent” pushes boundaries with grace

Emily Urban

There is something to be said about a musical that is not afraid to push boundaries. There are feelings shows just can’t hit without pushing a few of its audience’s buttons and pulling on a few heart strings. “Rent” brought beauty, tragedy and powerful lessons to Stephens Auditorium Saturday night, and it accomplished all of these things.

“Rent” portrays a group of friends struggling to deal with life as poor artists, teachers and performers. We follow the first act through the night their tenant building is locked down and homeless camp next door is emptied: Christmas Eve. We watch as relationships form, break and reform throughout the night.

The second act follows the characters through snapshots of the year following the events of that fateful night. This second half covers the group’s struggle for the remainder of the year, facing AIDS, drug addiction, mortality and survivor’s guilt.

The show started around 13 minutes after the set time due to set up problems. There was only one set, but this set was versatile, fit for every scene with no set changes. The only thing that differentiated the scenes was the dramatic lighting and music transitions.

Because there is little spoken word, the story is almost entirely portrayed through the lyrics of the songs. Each song is perfectly tailored to the character singing it. The actors are almost constantly singing, but they never seem to falter. Songs like “La Vie Boheme” and “Rent” show the relationships between the group of friends while songs like “Tango: Maureen” and “One Song Glory” showcase individual character personalities.

The choreography of each number is beautiful as well as the blocking for the entire show. The actors are adept at dancing the tango, contemporary and other styles of dance. The show is performed in a continuous storyline, requiring the actors to draw the eye away from other actors present on stage during specific scenes. 

This show pushes boundaries, yes, but so does life. There are many messages that run through the heart of “Rent” for the audience to discover. The golden rule is utilized between the homeless and the businessman. There is a message that love and friendship are more important than selfishness, fear and anger.

“Rent” is a musical about what can and go wrong even if you think you are doing the right thing. “Rent” is about the fragility of life and love and being appreciative of what we have in the moment.