Friday, May 11, 2012


Friends from the street

Bristol Riverside Theatre, located at 120 Radcliffe Street in Bristol, Pa, is presenting a must-see production of RENT through June 3. Winner of a Tony Award, the Drama Desk Award and the Pulitzer Prize, RENT is the 9th longest running show in Broadway’s history. Based on Puccini’s opera, La Boheme, this rock musical tells the story of unfortunate artists and musicians struggling to survive on the streets of the Bohemian section of New York during a period fraught with the dangers of HIV and AIDS. Everything about this production clamors for attention. James LaRosa, whose character Mark Cohen documents the lives and deaths of friends over a one year period, has a voice that is twice his size. Not only is he a wonder to listen to but also to watch; his facial expressions are extraordinarily revealing. His roommate Roger, portrayed by Mark Willis Borum, is no light-weight in the voice department either, but his strongest moments come when singing duets with the lovely Brit West who portrays Mimi, a dancer and drug user who gives up using to be with Roger. Brit also does a fine job when singing her solo roles. When Tyrone Roberson sings as Tom, the music comes from the depth of his soul and into the soul of every entranced audience member. Tom’s lover, Angel, played by Julian Alvarez, gives a delightful performance as the friendly drag queen. Flamboyant, sexy, limer and fun-loving, Angel sings and kicks up her heels as well as any finely honed athlete. Tracie Franklin as Joanne and Jamila Sabares-Klemm as Maureen are on-again- off-again lovers.  Their strongest musical moments come during their duets. The 34 musical numbers are supported in part by an additional ensemble cast. Of all the members of the ensemble, Nadine Zahr steals with show with her powerful voice that can probably be heard down the street at the King George II Inn. The Choreography, done by Stephen Casey, is exceptional in its simplicity. The actors on the stage flow effortlessly through their well-rehearsed routines. Set Designer Jason Simms strives for simplicity as well, as the actors glide up and down several sets of stairs in an old warehouse where they hang out. The stairways lead to landings at different levels, allowing several actors to occupy their own space at the same time. Lighting Designer Ryan J O’Gara worked wonders with the lights, creating shadows, bright spots and Christmas lights which appear and disappear on cue. RENT has one wow moment  after another.  The entire production is put together with great success. There should be many Barrymore nominations in its future. For tickets or further information, call 215-785-0100 or visit online at

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