Last night we saw Neil Patrick Harris' production of Rent at the Hollywood Bowl, it's one of my favourite musicals and performance spaces so a great combination, it was fabulous, but slightly flawed by the enormous stage and some questionable casting.
Neil Patrick Harris' Rent at the Hollywood Bowl
Overall it was a great event with some fantastic performances, most notably by recent Dancing with the Stars champion, Nicole Sherzinger's, interpretation of 'Maureen'.
The Pussycat Doll lead singer made the part her own and dazzled the full capacity open air amphitheater.
Nicole Scherzinger as 'Maureen' in Neil Patrick Harris' Rent
Rent's creator, Jonathan Larson, may not have been able to enjoy the success of the original show due to his untimely death in 1996, but he created some fantastic characters and really memorable songs.
Skylar Astin on stage as 'Mark'
in Rent at the Hollywood Bowl
Aaron Tveit on stage as 'Roger'
in Rent at the Hollywood Bowl
Yesterday I celebrated my eleven year anniversary with my partner, Charlie, and Rent was one of the musicals that we grew to love together (along with Wicked), so it holds a special place in my heart, but also because I've seen it on Broadway and London's West End multiple times.
Wayne Brady as 'Collins' and Telly Leung as 'Angel' in Rent
'Santa Angel' in Rent at the Hollywood Bowl
Having said that it makes the casting of the characters for me all the more important, for the most part the Hollywood Bowl version succeeded with Angel, Joanne (loved her), Collins and even Mark.
Tracie Thoms as 'Joanne' in Rent at the Hollywood Bowl
Vanessa Hudgens as 'Mimi' in Rent at the Hollywood Bowl
I really wasn't expecting that much from High School Musical alumni, Vanessa Hudgens, but she impressed me with her performance, maybe more for her energy and acting than her singing.
Vanessa Hudgens performs on stage in Rent
She wasn't terrible, but her 'Mimi' and vocals missed a certain edge, although it does help to move her beyond her squeaky clean Disney image.
I did love her glittery dance across the Pool Circle's semi-circular stage amidst the Hollywood Bowl's expensive box-seats, it was a real crowd pleaser and she looked spectacular too.
Also I 'liked' Aaron Tveit's 'Roger', but wanted someone slightly more raspy and rock, and less pretty boy. Sadly for me he murdered 'Your Eyes' in the second Act.
Nicole Scherzinger stole to show with her performance as 'Maureen'
Another stumbling point was that the Hollywood Bowl seems like such a cavernous stage to fill for Rent, it doesn't have huge dance numbers like last year's Guys and Dolls (with Scott Bakula, Beau Bridges and Jessica Biel), but they did have inventive lighting and a larger cast than normal, with lots of energy, to fill most of the space.
Telly Leung as 'Angel' in Rent at the Hollywood Bowl
I also loved the reinterpretation of Tango: Maureen, using Nicole Scherzinger's dancing talents to add an extra visual element to the funny song.
The Tango: Maureen from Rent at the Hollywood Bowl
Rent has fantastic ensemble songs to go with the solos and duets, and I think it's those big tunes when everyone is present and singing on stage that really stirs your spirit and sets this particular musical apart.
It's a long musical but the time seemed to fly by, probably because I was enjoying it so much. For all its flaws I still throughly enjoyed the evening and thought the performance captured the spirit of the show.
"I think they meant it when they said you can't buy love
Now I know you can rent it"
After Les Miserables, Guys and Dolls and now Rent, I wonder what 2011 will bring to the stage...