Welk’s ‘RENT’ well worth seeing
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
With a cast that seems to live their roles, the emotionally challenging and thought-provoking musical “RENT” is worth seeing at the Welk Theatre, playing through Oct. 28.
“RENT,” billed as a rock opera, was inspired by Puccini’s 1896 opera “La Bohème.” Several of the musical’s characters and storylines came from the opera that debuted 100 years prior to the musical’s debut, but updates including replacing tuberculosis with AIDS as the deadly illness of the day.
The Welk’s version, directed and choreographed by Dan Mojica, has also been visually updated from the original Broadway show that won the Tony Award for best musical. Updates include adding several television screens that feature videos of key cast members at various parts of the production.
“RENT” has many uplifting moments, but overall the story about a year in the life of a group of poor, bohemian artists and musicians in New York City’s East Village is sad because most characters are living with HIV or dying due to AIDS. Some are also struggling with severe drug addictions.
Among the stand-out performances is that of Welk veteran Seth Salsbury who plays the lovable and dying Angel, a young, gay drag queen who finds love with an older man, Collins (Trance Thompson), a college professor. Both characters have AIDS. Their soulful and emotional “I’ll cover you” has a strong impact on the audience and both actors seem to live their parts.
The other couple whose star-crossed love story is also compelling is that of songwriter and guitarist Roger (Welk returnee Joey Elrose) and the drug-addicted S&M dancer Mimi (Kathleen Calvin). Elrose and Calvin’s emotional and pain-filled performances as they face their short futures because of AIDS are believable and showcased in their respective numbers “One Song Glory” and “Take Me or Leave Me,” and duet “Another Day.”
The entire cast is talented actors and excellent singers, evident in the company number “Seasons of Love,” probably the most well-known song in “RENT.”
The Welk set of the run-down apartment building was well designed by Jennifer Edwards. The only drawback to the show, a likely fixable problem on opening night, was with microphones that at times muffled some actors’ voices and made their words not understandable. In addition the band on stage occasionally drowned out their voices.
“RENT” can be seen at 1 p.m. Wednesdays, 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursdays, 1 p.m. Saturdays and 6:30 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 28. Tickets start at $44, with an optional meal available for some shows. Purchase at 888-802-7469 or www.WelkTheatreSanDiego.com. The Welk Theatre Resort is at 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido.
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