by Lorie Lewis Ham
Last night my son and I were able to sit in on part of a tech rehearsal for the California Public Theater production of Rent that opens tomorrow night. Since the show only has two performances I didn’t want to wait until it opened to write about it, so they were kind enough to let us sit in.
While we were only able to stay for Act 1 (we did get a glimpse of the ending as well), I can tell you that this is a show that you won’t want to miss, and you had better hurry up and get your tickets before they sell out!Every voice in this show is excellent, but even in a rehearsal I had favorites. Brian Pucheu plays Roger perfectly, with that rocker vocal sound that is needed for the role, a great voice, and the absolutely perfect look. Michael Watanabe is Angel and is also a perfect fit for the role with a sweet, high voice and just the right look–not every guy can pull off skirts and high-heeled boots. Another favorite was Mimi played by Valerie Salcedo, who again looks the part perfectly and has a lovely voice. She also had the moves to pull off the stripper version of her song, “Out Tonight”, which they are doing more like the movie, rather than the way I’ve seen it done on stage in the past.
The main cast is rounded out by Harrison Mills as Tom Collins, Nick Hand as Mark, Akilah Medina as Joanne, Abigail Nolte as Maureen, and Gaylon Strickland as Benny. All did an excellent job in rehearsal and I envy those of you that will get to see the finished product. The show is directed by S. Eric Day.Rent happens to be one of my favorite shows, not only for the music, but even more so for the portrayal of friendship, starving artists, and those struggling with AIDS in the late 1980s. The history of the show is also very interesting–I highly recommend buying the movie at some point and watching the documentary that is included on it. While this show can bring tears, it also brings hope and is filled to the brim with love. And to top it off the songs in this rock musical are great! For me to pick a favorite would almost be impossible–though they include “Santa Fe”, “Rent”, “Seasons Of Love”, and “Without You.”
I can’t imagine a better way to finish out your year than to see Rent. There are only two performances–December 28 and 29–at the Tower Theatre in Fresno’s Tower District. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.towertheatrefresno.com/ or by phone at 559-485-9050.