By: Ryan Foote – Cougar News Staff Writer
The Canyon Theatre Guild’s production of Rent was an enjoyable show with a provocative nature rarely seen at the local level. Most impressive however was the ability of the fairly young cast to present the promiscuous and troubled lives of their characters in a believable way.
A young, talented cast completely lacking any shyness displayed the famous story admirably. It was a cast that made up for the lack of harmony on the group numbers with individual personality and talent.
It was clear that each actor had an understanding of the character they were playing, and made them come to life.
The standout performer of the show was J.D. Driskell, playing “Roger Davis,” an AIDS infected man who struggles walking out of the apartment. Once you get past his uncanny resemblance to last season’s American Idol’s runner up, Adam Lambert, you can truly be blown away by his vocal skills. His acting is believable but he brings the performance home with his amazing voice.
Playing the promiscuous and very sexy role of the junkie “Mimi” was Nikki Berra, daughter of the show’s director Leslie Berra. She gets the audience’s attention as she flirtatiously shows off her “assets,” but she keeps them looking with her wonderful acting skills and is able to produce a shockingly powerful voice from such a small frame.
If you consider Berra as the princess of the show, there is no doubt who the queen is. Charlie Nash’s performance of the loud, proud and hilarious drag queen “Angel” was truly one to remember. His humor and personality kept the audience’s focus, and the regularly loud auditorium was silent during the death of his character, showing the connection he made with the audience.
Besides the name roles, the show could not have been as enjoyable as it was without its ensemble. Playing several different characters each, the ensemble was full of energy and was the glue of the play’s transitions and what helped the sometimes stagnant storyline move along.
Standouts of the ensemble were Becky Hasquet whose solo during the show’s feature song amazed the audience and also Lysis Fecske whose break dancing solo added versatility to the performance.
Besides the fact that all the singers’ microphones could have been turned down a level or two and the choreography was awkward and forced at times, the performance as a whole was enjoyable.
The message of the story was clear and the audience could easily forget that they were at a community college, giving credit to the show’s professionalism. The adult nature of the story was handled extremely well and the risqué acts all felt natural and within the story.
Due to its talented cast and believability of the performance as a whole, the cast and crew of this production of this legendary play definitely have something to be proud of.
On a side note, the audience attending the close out performance on Saturday night received a true honor. Attending the play was Allan Larson, the father of the late Jonathan Larson, the creator of Rent. After receiving a standing ovation, Larson spoke about the disease that took his son’s life and how simple awareness can go a long way.