Actor’s Express covers ‘Rent’

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Actor’s Express covers ‘Rent’

The Southerner

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By Isabel OlsonAE_Rent_Logo_Color

Though the school year is just beginning to heat up once again, bringing with it a full schedule, be sure to save space to cool down and take a break with some live entertainment because local theatre, Actor’s Express, has revived the hit musical Rent!

Rent weaves the tale of a group of reckless, yet lively young adults gripped by poverty and struggling with love and identification, in the shadows of New York City’s late 1990s AIDS/HIV epidemic. This rock musical, originally written and composed by Jonathan Larson and based loosely on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème, broke musical theater standards in its 1996 debut. Rent won both Tony Awards and the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score and the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for drama . While off Broadway now, Rent continues to gain critical acclaim in productions such as Actor’s Express’ which broke all of this Atlanta theatre’s box office records.

The Atlanta show features a young and talented cast with exemplary voice and acting skills. Julissa Sabino showcases dance, acting and singing through her role as the risk-taking, foxy female lead Mimi Marquez. Sabino is certainly a rising star, and seeing her on a bigger stage, possibly even a Broadway national tour, would be no surprise.

Patrick Schweigert, Ashley Tate, Shelli Delgado, Chase Davidson, Falashay Pearson. Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus.

Jennifer Alice Acker took the artsy and eccentric character Maureen Johnson to a new level with a terrific belting voice that not only entertained, but also delved deeper into Maureen’s tricky, sometimes misunderstood character. A few actors seemed miscast, increasing the importance of already major characters; nevertheless, the production did not disappoint.

Set in a smaller black box theater, the audience gets a different experience than a regular stage production provides. At Actor’s Express, the audience sits on either side of the performance space, only feet away from the performers themselves. With a set much longer than wide, the audience has to choose where to look rather than see the full picture. The staging allowed the actors to use their space to the fullest, and the minimalistic set didn’t detract from the story. Though unique, the set didn’t work well with the space—at times, obscuring  the actors. Sitting closer to the center, however, allows a fuller view of the production.

While the production lacks in some aspects, it is overall a worthwhile experience. Rent is a must-see musical, and this production is well worth the time and money. Student rates are $20 until the closing date of Aug. 22. Some productions even offer an extended experience after the show through a talk-back with both the cast and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) employees about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the musical. This production will open your eyes to heartbreaking realities and harrowing truths, while still maintaining an artistic and enlightening spirit.

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