Love overcomes complex social issues in McLean High School’s forceful “Rent”

April 17, 2013

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Margaret Murphy, a student at Fairfax High School , reviews “Rent” performed by McLean High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

One of the most iconic songs sung in Rent poses the question: “How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?” McLean High School’s production of Rent follows the lives of seven friends struggling to survive in Alphabet City. The show deals with themes of poverty, drug addiction, loss, and the strain that comes with HIV/AIDS. Ultimately, the characters realize their solution is love.

Rent, a rock opera, by Jonathan Larson was based on Puccini’s La Boheme. Rent premiered on Broadway on January 25, 1996. The production brought home multiple Tony Awards, including an award for Best Musical. In 2005, many of the show’s original cast members, such as Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs, Anthony Rapp, and Adam Pascal, reunited to star in the motion picture produced by Columbia Pictures.

In the role of Mark, sophomore Alex Stone proved to be the clear standout of the show. He added crisp vocal dynamics to each number and appeared to carry each song he was featured in. Stone’s strong characterization of Mark was also present in his acting. He created clear relationships with each of his cast mates and managed to execute his lines with clean, precise diction. Camila Alfonzo-Meza shined in the role of Mimi. One could clearly see her love for Roger (Damian Leverett) grow as the show progressed. Her vocal control and smooth soprano tone were particularly prevalent in the duet “Without You.”

Maureen, a limelight-loving lesbian, was played by Madelyn Paquette. Paquette’s comic timing was spot on. The song “Over the Moon” accentuated her powerful vocals and strong acting chops. Max Johnson played the role of Angel. Johnson was able to make the transition from the flamboyant side of his character in Act I to pain stricken and dying in Act II. One of Johnson’s most powerful moments occurred during his death scene while Mimi and Roger sang “Without You.”  Johnson was completely invested in the scene despite not being the main focus. His acting was believable and not overdone in the least.

Rent is a production not typically done by high schools because of its subject matter and difficult score; however, McLean’s production was a triumph! Despite some minor lapses in vocal control and consistencies in harmony, each member of the cast remained dedicated to their roles. A few standouts included Carla Caldoron as the “Seasons of Love” soloist and Sydney Lo as Alexi Darling. Both performers proved that even small roles can make a big impression. As an ensemble, The Support Group, made a huge impact while on stage. All members were inflicted with HIV/AIDS. One of the best songs that highlighted their emotions was “Will I.”

The set, designed by Max Johnson, truly enhanced the story with its intricate details and multifunctional platforms. Another interesting technical element the show incorporated was Mark’s documentary designed by Isabel Zapata. The slideshow played on an overhead projector during the final rendition of “Seasons of Love.” The slides featured video footage of members of the cast interacting with one another in a myriad of locations. Despite the initial technical difficulty, the cast kept going and never showed any sign of distress.

McLean High School's production of Rent reminded us all that in spite of what the future holds, there really is “no day but today.”

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