Rent: A Review in Pittsburgh

Rent 20th Anniversary Tour Pittsburgh
Photo via Cultural Trust

22 years after Rent arrived on Broadway, I finally saw the musical last night at Heinz Hall.

As powerful as the show is, I can’t help but grieve that I’m seeing it as a classic rather than in its raw early days when everything was timely. Not that the story isn’t relevant today, but I’m left aware that I missed an opportunity to be part of something rather than just a witness.

Nonetheless, I was captivated by the story, the music, and the messages. It was hard to miss the stark contrast between the ornate Heinz Hall and the set of urban decay. The set also felt crowded which is something I can’t speak to having not seen it before, but that underscored the defiance of people carving out meaningful existence in spite of the constraints of old and new forces.

It wasn’t lost on me that the erosion of stage space for a musical about people living on the edge is a pretty timely metaphor for Pittsburgh. Or that the staging muffled some of the voices and lyrics. Again, a metaphor for Pittsburgh and marginalized voices?

The performances were good. I was quite struck by the supporting cast who wove themselves between multiple characters and between the sets with fluidity and grace. I sent Q&As to the actors portraying Angel, Mimi & Joanne so I was a bit more focused on their performances. And at the intermission, I learned that Roger was played by a Pittsburgh native.

The first act was slow and started to feel repetitive. I realize you don’t tinker with a 22-year-old production, but it felt like it could be tighter. I am going to buy the cast album this afternoon.

I did laugh and cry. I wondered why the dude in front of me was sporting a Rick Saccone button on his jacket. I endured clueless chit-chat from people discussing their multiple theater subscriptions. And the nonstop bragging about Hamilton. It made me wonder if any of these folks tied their self-aggrandizing bragging and consumption of theater as a product rather than art is part of the problem at the heart of Rent? 

I doubt it.

Limited tickets are still available. Rent is at Heinz Hall.

Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets in return for my review. My opinions, as always, are my own.

This national tour is part of the 2017-2018 PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Broadway Across America.

Get Tickets: Online here

When: 7:30 p.m. through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $30-$116; trustarts.org or 412-392-4900.

Same-day, cash-only tickets: Seats in the first three rows will be available for $25 for every performance. Tickets must be purchased at Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave., starting two hours prior to the show, with a two-ticket limit.

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