By Mary Damiano
It should come as no shock to anyone familiar with Slow Burn Theatre Company that their production of Rent is electrifying.
Director and choreographer Patrick Fitzwater’s imagination had a field day with this one, daring to change up some of the iconic elements of Rent and making it fresh and uniquely Slow Burn. Everything works: Fitzwater’s stripped down staging and joyous choreography; Sean McClelland’s steely, industrial platform set with its ominous clock—time literally hangs over the characters’ heads like the sword of Damocles; Caryl Fantel’s musical direction amps up and clarifies the rock opera score, Lance Blank’s lighting is almost a character, giving the feel of a laser light show; and Rick Pena’s costumes stray from the original and usually duplicated production, modernizing the design yet keeping true to each character.
From the leads to the ensemble, there is not a weak link in the cast. Mike Westrich gets to really work his rock chops as put-upon filmmaker Mark. Bruno Faria plays moody Roger with the same intensity that made his Clyde Barrow so successful in Slow Burn’s January production of Bonnie and Clyde. There’s real heat between Amy Miller Brennan as narcissistic Maureen and Christina Alexander as her girlfriend Joanne—their fiery duet Take Me or Leave Me is hot, hot, hot. Rayner G. Garranchan plays Benny as your friendly neighborhood villain. Darrick Penney plays Tom Collins with a genuine soulfulness that’s hard to come by. His solo on I’ll Cover You in the second act is heartbreaking. Bruno Vida transforms himself into Angel, the ray of light and goodness in Rent. Slow Burn devotees have seen Vida in many shows, but here he embodies Angel’s tough vulnerability and brings his own witty optimism to the role.
And thanks to Patrick Fitzwater for casting Abby Perkins in a lead role. Perkins’ charisma was evident when she was in the ensemble of White Christmas at The Wick and her talent has shone through in even the smallest parts in a variety of shows. As Mimi in Rent, she’s front and center where a performer of her vocal range and acting ability should be. Her Mimi is dynamic, vulnerable, fierce and sexy.
Slow Burn’s Rent is incredibly energetic, emotional and explosive, a reimagined rock epic for a new generation of Rent fans.
Rent runs through April 26 at West Boca Performing Arts Theatre in West Boca High School in Boca Raton, then moves to the Aventura Art and Cultural Center April 30 through May 3. For more information and tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit slowburntheatre.org.