Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Low 'Rent' Production Deserving of High Admiration

Community Theater Appreciation

Presented by the Devonshire Playhouse Adult Theatre, Skokie, IL
Run Ended

When it comes to theatrical talent, I'm a triple threat...in reverse. I can't sing, I can't dance, I can't act.

So beyond frequently enjoying the talents of those who can do any or all of the above, I also have vast admiration for the dedicated efforts of anyone who performs onstage, at any level.

Recently, I wrote about outstanding productions by local troupes who present only a handful of performances-- Brigadoon by Light Opera Works; The Sound of Music by Chamber Opera Chicago. I can only imagine just how vast the disparity is between time spent rehearsing (and putting together sets) vs. time onstage in front of the public.

And while I'm fairly certain that even many local "professional troupes" don't pay their actors much if at all, the myriad denizens of community theater take my admiration and appreciation to a whole other level.

It doesn't seem quite right to write a critical review about volunteer, mostly teenage performers showcasing their talents at a community center, but relative to my expectations going in, the Devonshire Playhouse Adult Theatre's production of Rent clearly merits @@@@@.

No, it wasn't as good as when I've seen the show--one of my very favorite musicals--on Broadway or national tours through Chicago, including a 2009 version with original stars Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal.

But with adequate scenery, clever staging, a strong band and several terrific performances--including some startling strong vocals--this was an unequivocally enjoyable production, directed by Liz Yerkovich. 

Jack Shurluff, a high schooler who played Mark (the role originated by Rapp). could step into a touring production tomorrow. His singing, acting and presence were that good. Rebecca Iloulian was also very strong as Mimi, as was Daven Taba as Tom Collins.

Certainly, some performers were a bit better than others--true at any level of theater--but I was impressed with all the actors in key roles, including Kevin Pollack as Roger, Jose A. Guerrero as Angel, Kailey Hopkins as Maureen, Abby Rakocy as Joanne and Joe Poradyla, a cop by day who was quite good as Benny.

Although I am a Skokie resident and became aware of this production as such, I do not know any of the cast or crew members involved in Rent; this isn't a case of being relatively proud of friends & family. I was genuinely impressed. The 4-show run has ended, so I can't even recommend you go--for a scant $9--but I just wanted to voice my high regard for what I saw & heard, and the effort undoubtedly involved in putting together such a satisfying rendition of a challenging show.

For someone who has seen Rent at the highest levels, or even anyone who never has, this was an extremely worthwhile representation of Jonathan Larson's masterpiece based on La Boheme. My kudos to all who helped make it such...and anyone who participates in creating local theater productions that can be treasured by any community.

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