CMPAC Presents



RENT Review

By Maria Capp - Sayville Gazette


RENT – CM Performing Arts Center 

            I must share with you the wonderful dinner and theater experience I had this past Saturday evening.  The company of course was fabulous.  My dear friend, Donna and I caught up because the holidays slipped by without our seeing or really speaking to each other.  The restaurant was O’Reilly’s Restaurant and Pub in Oakdale.  I must admit that it’s been a long, long time since I’ve sat in a pub and specifically this particular restaurant.  Remember Annie Oakley’s in the 80’s?  Glad to say it was a lot brighter and more of an open space than I remember.  No smoking too.  That was then this is now.  Donna and I arrived about 6 pm and the place was empty.  A quiet opportunity for the two of us to chat.  By the time, we finished our first cosmopolitan, the restaurant was buzzing with lots of folks at the bar and all around us enjoying their dinner.  There was definitely a theme in the conversation.  Like Donna and I, many were there to enjoy the dinner – theater combination offered by O”Reilly’s and CM Performing Arts Theater next door. I heard the couple next to us speaking about how excited they were to see Rent because they missed it on Broadway.  Donna too never saw the Broadway show but enjoyed the movie very much and was looking forward to seeing it on stage.  For me, Rent is another Les Miserables’.  I am a huge fan and have seen it on Broadway several times as well as at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.  As an actor, I’ve even attended an open call…a very long line that is referred to as a “cattle call”.  I was a wannabe Idina Menzel.  My first audition was even before I saw it on Broadway.  I just fell in love with the music and lyrics.  After several auditions and callbacks, I wasn’t asked to join the cast, but have become a part of the Jonathan Larson’s fan club.  His masterpiece paved the way for a new genre of American musical theater.  I by no means want to minimize the tremendous rock operas of before, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair or Tommy, but Jonathan Larson is credited for paving the way for the pop rock opera as we now see it performed on the Broadway stage.  More than just a rock opera, Rent is a story about a community of friends who regardless of their race, gender, sexuality or level of poverty love each other and learn to embrace the concept of living in the moment.  As Larson so poetically writes, “No day but today!” 


            The collaborative effort of CM PAC’s artistic and production staff is obvious. All elements of this production are top notch.  Not one detail spared.  Patrick Grossman’s eye for costumes, set design and choreography are impeccable and genuine to the original production.  Bernadette Mescall-Rodriquez’s passion about this creative endeavor is obvious in the conviction and commitment of all the actors on stage.  The harmonic voices and melodies that filled CM’s theater Saturday night are a testament to Michael Santangelo’s talent as a musical director.  I closed my eyes a few times and just enjoyed listening.  I cannot say enough about how exciting it was to see the gorgeous set and enjoy the band rock out right on stage as they did on Broadway!  Hot guitar playing by Chad Goodstein.  The lighting is as good as CM’s production of Wedding Singer again by Zach Lane.  Standout performances by two brothers Rodney Jackson (Benny) and Dewayne Queen-Jackson (Paul/Ensemble).  From the moment these actors stepped on the stage, you immediately knew who they were, why they were there, and what they wanted!  Newcomer Christina Valenzuela played the part of Mimi with such an edge and maturity yet gave the audience a glimpse into her vulnerability and helplessness to her addiction.  I was totally enamored by the vocals of all especially Brian Cook (Tom Collins), Rob Buchwald (Mark), Brett Campbell (Roger) and Lia Delmater (Joanne).  Wonderful performances by the rest of the cast especially Emily Dowdell’s (Maureen) monologue “Over the Moon.”  Don’t miss this one! 

Click below...
Rent Interview with VIOS