Rent: Student Edition
by Bradford Theatre Arts

It caused some controversy when they decided to take Rent to the high schools – a show dealing very overtly with sexual subject matter and drug use as poor, young bohemians try to find their way in the world. Too mature or risqué for teenagers to perform? There will be arguments, but what Bradford Theatre Arts in Kenosha, Wisconsin demonstrated quite clearly is that high school performers not only can handle the roles, vocals, and subject matter – they can also do it with passion and genuine emotion that many of the recent national tours have lacked.

A couple relative newcomers to theatre lead the show as twentysomething roommates Mark and Roger – the struggling to pay last year’s rent on their skid row New York apartment while they pursue their arts. Roger is trying to create one big song before he dies from AIDS, which he recently acquired from his ex-girlfriend. Mark is trying to become a documentary filmmaker, currently using his present life for footage. Mathew Dunwald has a good voice for Roger, as does his new acquaintance Mimi (Krystina Andreoli) whom he meets when she stops by to get a candle lit for her power-less apartment in the flirty duet Light My Candle. Roger also sings Your Eyes very well, while Mimi impresses with her request for Roger to take her Out Tonight. As Mark, Tyler Thorson shows surprising moves and coolness when he gets to know his ex-girlfriend’s new girlfriend in Tango Maureen, and when he leads the big Act One finale La Vie Boheme – a celebration of all things bohemian.

Poor Mark really lost out when he lost Maureen, the charismatic poetry reader who, as she puts it, will always have women in rubber flirting with her. Aja Goes is a dynamite talent – good comedy, great voice, and strong character – all of which we see with her big splash onto the stage in her poetry reading of Over the Moon. Maureen’s new flame is Joanne, a lawyer who is a little out of her element in Maureen’s lifestyle. But Katherine Thomas is very much in her element on stage with excellent characterization and a jaw-dropping vocal performance. When Joanne and Maureen team up for Take Me or Leave Me, it’s an over-the-moon performance.

The other great couple in this one is Collins and his new boy/girlfriend Angel who is a friendly and gentle transvestite (though not so friendly and gentle to the landlord’s cat). Cody Ellsworth is a lively and sensitive Angel. The role of Collins is an easy one to go unnoticed, but Luis Herrera doesn’t let that happen. Not only does he wow with yet another great voice, he’s also remarkably effective in developing Collins as a person. His raw, genuine emotion as he vainly tries to comfort Angel during the latter’s physical agony makes for a powerful scene – especially when bolstered by the affection Collins has clearly had for Angel since they met.

Holly Stanfield directs a production that is both big and intimate, and where attention has clearly been paid to every detail of production by her, her talented artistic staff, and her cast. Maureen Kruger’s set is a stylish and creative representation of a seedy New York neighborhood that makes use of clear plastic banners unfurled for various effects and a grimy skylight that is extremely realistic. John R. Dolphin’s lighting skillfully captures the moods of the various scenes. Jamie Johns’ band is top notch, and the sound system nicely balances the voices and the music. The cast, with students from two local schools, is packed full of outstanding singers and actors. The whole cast shines in some great ensemble numbers including La Vie Boheme, No Day But Today, Will I in which several soloists shine, and the beautifully harmonized Seasons of Love. The Wisconsin winter is a tough season to love, but neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night should keep people away from this great production.

Performed February 21 to March 8, 2007

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Roger: Mathew Dunwald
Mark: Tyler Thorson
Collins: Luis Herrera
Benny: Mike Chase
Joanne: Katherine Thomas
Angel: Cody Ellsworth
Mimi: Krystina Andreoli
Maureen: Aja Goes
Kathryn Bullis
Beth Wermeling
Sophia Hailer
Max Dinan
Joshua Rach
Chris Osborn
Kalani Baguio
Jazmin Herrera
Stephanie Carter
Tayler Fulmer
Sibany Jackson

Director: Holly Stanfield
Musical Director: Jamie Johns
Band Contractor: David Schripsema
Choreographer: Brenda Didier
Lighting Design: John R. Dolphin and Candela Lighting
Set Design: Maureen Kruger
Stage Managers: Ainsley McMaster and Erin Quist
Sound: Eric Mielke


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