'Rent' celebrates 20 years at The Fisher
Carol Rosegg, 2016

The 20th-anniversary production of Rent has made its way to the Detroit area for a run at The Fisher Theatre, which will be there through Sunday, Mar. 26. The show, which features West Bloomfield star Danny Kornfeld in the role of Mark Cohen, continues to resonate with its sensitive story, fantastic score and an amazing cast of strong characters.

Although twenty years into its run it could be seen as dated, with its focus on the AIDS epidemic of the eighties and nineties, the show's moving portrayal of the disease and its wider focus on classicism, racism, gentrification and hope and love continues to draw in audiences and appeal to those of all ages.

The musical is the tale of a year in the life of seven artists in New York City during the AIDS epidemic and all of the pain, happiness, sadness, joy, humor and love that goes along with it. In the end, the story revolves around an overriding sense of hope that, in the end, true love will win out.

The production's potent musical choices definitely hold a lot of the universal appeal for the show, but it is the way that the ensemble cast pulls together that really stands out. The two show highlights are ensemble musical numbers "La Vie Bohème", which closes the first act and "Seasons of Love", the production's most recognizable song and the one that opens the second act.

Cohen does a great job with the role of Mark, the neurotic filmmaker, as he subtly builds to him revealing his own insecurities about love and his fear about being left behind, which he brings to the forefront on the emotional, "Goodbye Love”.

The show's other stars, Kaleb Wells as the angry Roger Davis and Skyler Volpe as Mimi Marquez, do a great job of building their relationship on stage and taking it to its ultimate conclusion. Volpe shines in every scene she is given.

The rest of the cast has their own moments to shine with Aaron Harrington's Collins showing off his vocal skills on the tender "I’ll Cover You (Reprise)" and Jasmine Easler's Joanne sharing her feelings on "We're Okay". The audience reacted most strongly to the hilarious Katie Lamark’s portrayal of Maureen, mooing along with her on "Over the Moon," and the central character of Angel Schunard, played poignantly by David Merino.

Those who have seen Rent before will certainly enjoy this version of the production and the heart and energy of the cast and those who haven't seen it before will be drawn in by the emotional story, melodic music and the great sense of hope that everyone who sees it leaves with at the end of the night.