RDC production Rent lands on flat note

The latest production by Red Deer College Arts’ students was a solid effort but in the end fell short.

Rent opened on the College’s mainstage last week.

Performances run Feb. 16-19 on the Arts’ Centre mainstage, with curtain at 7:30 p.m.

There is also matinee on Feb. 19 at 1 p.m.

The production is directed by Thomas Usher, a theatre studies instructor at RDC.

Set in a depressed area of New York City, Rent follows the experiences of a group of poor young artists who reject help from their parents to live freely as artists. Clearly, it’s not an easy, charmed path. They take over an old warehouse with no heat or power, and live under the shadow of everything from the threat and reality of AIDS, drug addiction and poverty. The warehouse is also managed by Ben, a former friend who has married into money and now demands rent for the past year.

While celebrating their decision to live life without rules at the Life Café, Ben padlocks the entrance to the warehouse. Naturally, this sets off an explosion of conflict.

The acclaimed production has landed Tony Awards for Best Music, Best Score and Best Book (penned by Jonathan Larson) as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama. A movie version was released in 2005 as well.

Capturing the essence of the story also meant learning about the times when the show is set. Although it’s not that long ago, there have been significant societal changes. More is known about AIDS now, for example, and the potential longevity of those infected with it these days has changed as compared to what it was in the mid-1990s.

The RDC set was superbly done and had many different elements to it. Actors were able to access several levels of the grunge looking and graffiti ridden stage giving the overall feel of the play a realistic one.

The live band, which was tucked away in a corner of the stage, was also a great addition to the show.

The acting throughout the play was reasonably good, however, when attempting to pull off a production that’s a musical, vocals have got to be a strong point.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the case for RDC’s Rent. Most of the actors weren’t strong in the singing department and many of the songs seemed too technically difficult for them to tackle.

Some of the actors had shining moments including Shane Gramlich, who plays Roger Davis, Nevada Banks, who plays Mimi and Amber Whitebone, who plays Joanne Jefferson.

The production overall ran quite smoothly. The show was well-rehearsed and enjoyable from that point of view.

What lacked was vocal talent. And sitting through a three-hour musical when the vocals are weak can be tough.

For ticket information, call 403-340-4455.