‘Rent’ rocks the boat in Clinton
Written by: David Burke – Quad City Times
Seeing the same show twice in three months inevitably leads to contrast-and-compare moments. And don’t ask me to say whether the “Rent” that’s playing at the Clinton (Iowa) Showboat is better or worse than the version Davenport’s Harrison Hilltop Theatre did in April, but it does show some differences.
Director Patrick Stinson and his cast take the Jonathan Larson musical at a slower pace, tending to savor the dialogue as opposed to the comparative breakneck pace at Harrison. (Think about quickly eating a gourmet meal versus stopping to taste every bite; arguments can be made for either case.) And the Showboat’s cast is more racially diverse, with more performers of color onstage.
Previous version aside, “Rent” may be the most deliciously raw musical the Clinton Showboat has ever staged, with its adult language and subject matter as well as its presentation. Performers are, for the first time in boat history, miked, and while half of the Stinson-designed set is a two-level industrial structure, the other half is graffiti-accented open black stage, even letting the audience see the cast enter and exit from the dressing room door.
Particularly fine performances come from Jeni Noble, both sultry and melancholy as exotic dancer Mimi; Showboat veteran Nicole Horton, fearless as performance artist Maureen; and Bradford Rolen, whose rich voice accentuates Tom Collins’ “I’ll Cover You.”
Nicholas Lee plays filmmaker Mark, at times blending into the background, and Michael Curtin plays the heavily mascara-ed rocker Roger.
Musical director Tommy Iafrate leads a five-member ensemble through the difficult score, only occasionally threatening to drown out the singers.
Stinson and his cast have captured the spirit and energy of the show for a highly recommended performance.
One last comparison: Hilltop had to turn away would-be audience members, while Saturday’s show filled half to two-thirds of the boat. There’s one difference that can easily be rectified.