I was not impressed with last semester’s college musical. “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” was stiff and intended for a younger audience, or perhaps an older one. Four of the six cast members from the fall production returned for “Rent”: Shawna Drown, Robert Goldsmith, Alyssa Nelson, and Nick Radcliffe. For the spring of 2012, the Becker College Theatre Division presented something arguably more relevant and popular.
After the first performance of “Rent,” I overheard some of the actors discussing the theatre. They wanted new curtains and a more impressive stage. They did a good job with what they had to work. The row of chairs was fashioned at an angle to survey the second stage the cast and crew developed. The scaffolding construct towered the audience, decorated with that bohemian design in mind. Plenty of lights were strewn around the set, ready to flicker and blind the onlookers; we were warned beforehand. In addition, four flat-screens floated above the set to showcase what was supposedly being recorded and documented by a cast member during certain scenes.
While the scenery was noteworthy, the backstage production was not so hot. The actors were loud enough to hear without microphones, but when in use, the audio occasionally snapped, crackled, and cut in and out. The balance between sound effects, recorded and live music, and the actors’ voices needed adjustment. On a few occasions the microphone was turned on too late or turned off too soon. The cast could be heard whispering behind closed curtains.
At first, one player stood out as being better than the bunch. By the end, most of the cast impressed me. Kevin Finkelstein made his acting premiere as Mark Cohen. He was clearly having fun and enjoyed his part in the play. Someone’s singing ability must be cringe worthy or as good as mine in order for me to dismiss it. I’m not aware of anyone’s past training, but everyone surprised me. I never heard Finkelstein attempt to carry a tune before.
Nick Radcliffe was arguably the best singer. He vindicated his prior performance as the titular Charlie Brown. Radcliffe and his costar, Alyssa Nelson, who also was a great voice, stole the spotlight; they were, should I say, ‘cute’ together. During the New Year’s party scene, the prop champagne may have accidentally erupted in Radcliffe’s mouth. He and Nelson couldn’t help but share a laugh. They were perfectly cast as HIV-infected lovers.
Also performing for the first time was Luis Sanchez as the drag queen, Angel. Sanchez’s performance was continuously met with laughs. Being a man in drag is probably unlike him. The faculty and students that know of him outside his role found him to be hilarious. Again, he was another ‘first-timer’ who proved himself in his ability to act and sing. Although he may have been nervous as he was somewhat quiet, Sanchez provided a great stage presence all-in-all.
The main cast did great overall, including Shawna Drown, Robert Goldsmith, Brendan Keough, and Jenny Wallace. When they all sang together though, they were talking heads, albeit, coherent and in unison. The casting for the ‘Company’ was coherent also. Chris Larke, Kim Martinson, Laura Renner, Ally Twomey, and Samantha Wronski were necessary additions and proved their homeless or down-on-their-luck parts well.
My addition to the room full of spectators allowed for it to be packed on day one. “Rent” is a definite choice for a college musical over Charlie Brown. The cast enjoyed themselves and so did the audience. If I may speak on behalf of the crowd that attended, we were pleased that this musical was a tad bit loose and risqué in contrast to last semester’s.
Brendan Testa, Staff Writer