Kids’ Acting production of RENT impresses musical theater fan

“To the stage” toasts Maureen Johnson, the glitteringly provocative performance artist and drama queen of RENT, from her perch upon a table. And sitting in the audience, seeing the show for the third time in a week, I can’t help but echo the sentiment.
Set in the late ’90s, RENT follows a group of “bohemian” New Yorkers as they struggle with heartbreak, destitution, addiction and their own mortality; four of the seven main characters are HIV positive, and they all know they’re living on borrowed time.
Yet despite the somber subject material, RENT is invigorating. It’s thrilling and heartbreaking and cathartic. It’s a story about fear, about loss, about making choices and never being able to turn back the clock. But it’s also a story about seizing the moment, about kindness, forgiveness and acceptance. It’s a story about love.
The teenaged cast and crew of Kids Acting have done a phenomenal job. They portray their characters with great sensitivity, proving again and again that they have the maturity to tackle adult themes.
While a number of the main characters are played by different people on different days, all the performers are excellent, and on any given day you’re sure to see a Westlake student in a major role. Seniors Susannah Crowell (Maureen Johnson) and John Thomas (Joe, The Man, Mr. Grey, Pastor), juniors Walker Register (Mark Cohen) and Hannah Mosing (Mrs.Cohen) and sophomore Huxley Kuhlmann (the other Mark Cohen) are all currently Westlake students, and recent Westlake graduate Dylan Kittleman stars as charismatic drag queen, Angel.
There will be showings of RENT at the Center Stage Theater on Friday March 6, Saturday March 7 and Sunday, March 8.
So here’s to the stage, and to the teenaged cast that has risen spectacularly to the challenge of putting on a show that both entertains the audience and addresses some of the most poignant and controversial topics of our time.

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