Moorpark College’s “Rent” gives an edge to musical theater

Caitlin Trude

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Moorpark College staged a performance of one of Broadway's most well-known musicals, Rent. Photo used with permission of Janeene Nagaoka and Moorpark College.

Moorpark College staged a performance of one of Broadway’s most well-known musicals, Rent. Photo used with permission of Janeene Nagaoka and Moorpark College.

“How do you document real life when real life’s getting more like fiction each day?”were the first words that struggling filmmaker Mark Cohen (played by Jonathan Bluth) belted out in Moorpark College‘s final performance of the award-winning musical“Rent.”

Considered “the musical that changed Broadway forever,” “Rent” deals with the darker issues unseen in a “typical” Broadway production.

The story surrounds seven close friends living in poverty and homelessness, struggling to survive while living in the midst of AIDS/HIV and drug abuse. On top of all this, the characters refuse to pay the rent (hence the title) of their loft, in retaliation to their landlord/ex-roommate’s broken promise of letting them live there for free.

Unlike most musicals I have seen, “Rent” portrayed the complex stories of each character, rather than focusing primarily on one hero and one heroine. Something else that was different about this particular musical was that all but two lines were entirely in song, though not always set to music.

Each of the actors played their parts convincingly, and each made their singing ability very evident through their seemingly limitless musical talent. I was touched multiple times during the show, especially during the song “Will I?”, the scene in which the AIDS victims contemplate their futures. I thoroughly enjoyed the clever lines throughout the musical as well.

I – as well as the rest of the audience – was especially into the cast’s performance of “Seasons of Love” and actress Danielle Judovits’s hilarious rendition of “Over the Moon.”

However, I believe there should have been a more adequate warning label on Moorpark’s website about the show’s mature content. There were advisory signs outside the theater, but it would have been better to have seen a more concrete rating on Moorpark’s event page.

With the strong language, drug references, and prevalent sexual elements that were evident in “Rent,” one could be in for a major culture shock – especially during the character Mimi’s risque fire escape dance. Probably not a musical you’d want to see during a family outing.

After seeing “Rent,” I don’t consider it to be my favorite musical, but it was good story, and a very good performance. It was certainly one of the darkest storylines I have ever seen performed, but the advice in Finale B to “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss” left me feeling somewhat more hopeful.

What do you think?