“Rent” might be the perfect show to bring Broadway back to Detroit and the Fisher Theater from its pandemic 19-month hiatus.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the iconic musical – Pulitzer Prize winner in addition to several Tony and Drama Desk awards – is something of a theatrical comfort food. It’s well-loved and well-known, enjoying a following of fans who show up on each successive touring production, singing quietly word for word and anticipating all the key moments.
His themes also ring true a quarter of a century after his debut. Adapted by the late Jonathan Larson from Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Bohème”, the shadow of the 1980s HIV / AIDS crisis in “Rent” reflects the grip of today’s COVID-19. When Roger Davis (Coleman Cummings) sings his wish to write “the only song … before the virus sets in”, he feels as present as he was in 1996, especially in front of an audience of obligatory masks who produced vaccination documents. to enter the theater.
And, of course, “Rent” is at its heart a joyful celebration of the resilience of friendship and community, another striking theme (perhaps hopefully) amid current societal circumstances.
So “Rent” offers a deep opening to the new season of BiD and a kind of bookend to “Fiddler on the Roof,” an equally iconic show that was the last on the Fisher stage before the shutdown began in. March 2020.
Even with safety protocols, the public greeted Tuesday’s opening night (October 19) as the return of an old friend – and only one of the Fisher’s new cocktail glasses could be heard shattering in the auditorium during the evening.
Related: Fisher Theater brings back Broadway after 19-month hiatus
Like the world of theater in general, this young and energetic company of “Rent” has shown that it also recovers its legs after the time out. Barely back on the road, the whole continues to develop its fluidity and chemistry in a production which, despite its familiarity, is not easy to achieve. More than a few transitions sounded timid and some songs felt rushed, elements that take even the most seasoned bodies weeks, if not months, to perfect.
The good news is that the hardware, quite bulletproof after all these years, wears out at night, and a lot of the series’ key points are in good shape. Cody Jenkins (as Mark Cohen) and Rayla Garske (Joanne Jefferson) capture the comedic angst of “Tango: Maureen”, and Aiyana Smash (Mimi Marquez) gives “Out Tonight” an athletic exuberance. Lyndie Moe’s Maureen Johnson is gleefully exaggerated during “Over the Moon”, while Shafiq Hicks as Tom Collins leads his comrades through a touching cover of “I’ll Cover You” and a nimble Javon King delivers. of the formidable task of playing drag queen Angel Schunard.
And “Seasons of Love,” at this point, an indelible pop standard that highlights Charlotte Odusanya in this production, remains a jaw-dropping opening for the second act. Along with the rest of “Rent” it sends a message that all might not be quite right, but there is still a lot of good to be had until we get there.
“Rent” runs through Sunday, October 24 at the Fisher Theater, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. $ 39 and more. A limited number of $ 20 tickets are available for each show at the box office only. Call 313-872-1000 or visit broadwayindetroit.com.