Having seen RENT in New York in 2011, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Providence’s take, but as often happens with shows at PPAC, I was pleasantly surprised. Even from my nosebleed-section seats way up on the balcony, the set design was exceptional, the actors expressive, and of course, the music, RENT’s most notable claim to fame, was both captivating and moving.
The show, which popped up for a special one-weekend event at PPAC, particularly excelled with minimal but effective use of light design to create different atmospheres throughout the show — light and fun for “La Vie Boheme,” reflective for “Seasons of Love,” and cold and stark for the “I’ll Cover You,” reprise, one of the show’s most powerful scenes.
Perhaps the most intimate part of the RENT experience, however, was the clear impact that the show had on its audience. At various moments throughout the show — which loosely translates Puccini’s La Boheme to the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1980s New York — members of the crowd could be seen dancing in their seats, laughing out loud, holding the hands of their loved ones, or wiping away tears.
Maybe it’s the show itself, maybe it’s the current climate of our world, and maybe it’s a little bit of both. But on or off Broadway, and despite the AIDS crisis fading into history, this play still speaks to people. For one night in Providence, RENT brought us out of our seats and together for a communal experience.
For more information on Rent and upcoming shows at PPAC, check out: https://www.ppacri.org/