Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 4, 2011


Exit 7 Players, Ludlow, MA
through October 16, 2011
by Eric Sutter

Jonathan Larson's Tony Award winning and ground breaking musical "Rent," about a group of struggling Bohemian artists on NYC's Lower East Side, revvs up the stage and the emotions at  is Exit 7. This intensely entertaining production is a colossal undertaking by director Meghan Lynn Allen and musical director Bill Martin. It's a mixed-up, muddled up, shook-up world with themes of sexuality, AIDS, and the ravages of poverty. The intricate story is convoluted with many sub plots that turn delightfully, revealing various love connections. The set is simple with emphasis on  music and dance. It simmered and seared with high voltage edgy rock numbers and challenging choreography by Amy Meek.

Lead characters Mark (Josiah Durham) and Roger (Michael Lorenzo) must be carefully followed. Roger is a singer/songwriter looking for his big break. Love and friendships are unveiled through song dialogue. Big numbers -- "Rent" and "Seasons of Love" -- livened every cell in one's body. Relationship songs such as "You Okay Honey" with Angel (Michael Garcia) and Collins (Joshua Osborne), "Light My Candle" with Roger and Mimi (Kyle Boatright), and "Tango Maureen" with Mark and Joanne (Christine Greene) were loving fun and helped develop characters' personalities. "On the Street," a passionate full company number, featured a big voice stand-out by Blanket Lady (Susan Duncan). Maureen (Nikki Wadleigh) turned out the humorous "Over the Moon," which coaxed the audience to "Moo." Act I closed with the over the top "La Vie Boheme" in high fashion.

The plot thickens in Act II as the characters' emotional baggage becomes weighty. Steamy duets ensue with "Take Me Or Leave Me" between Maureen and Joanne, and "Without You" with Roger and Mimi. "Contact" features Angel, who hasproven to be a firm testament to the strength of the human spirit. After Angels' AIDS death, Collins sings "I'll Cover You" backed by a powerhouse group ensemble vocal. "Goodbye Love" finds Roger, Mimi and Benny(Silk Johnson) in a heated love triangle. "Your Eyes" is Roger's love song to Mimi -- watch for her strange twist of fate. There is no day but today!

This powerful musical is chock full of strong language; it is intended for mature audiences.