Review: ‘RENT’ at Historic Iao Theatre

If there weren’t so many shows running, I would devote more space to reviewing every aspect of “RENT.” Maybe that is a blessing in disguise. “RENT” needs to be experienced, not talked about. There are 16 actors who present this moving production, rather than two stars and a bunch of extras. For that reason, this review will not be about what a great singer or actor person X is.

“RENT” should be about an alternative family, and that’s exactly what Steven Dascoulias, Vania Jerome and Sarah Loney have created. If there is a collective star of “RENT,” it is the band, made up of Jerome (piano), Perry Gragas (percussion), Josh Hearl (guitar) and Troy Otto (bass). The rockin’ quartet has little more than 30 second breaks between songs over the course of a 2.5-hour show.

What you should exit with, post “RENT,” is tangible optimism towards life, a belief that tomorrow is going to be a great day, and that all starts now. If you don’t buy the feel-good stuff, then no matter how great the performances are, you won’t “get” “RENT.” However, if you still aren’t feeing it when Joanne (Kisha Milling) adds her musical exclamation point to the end of “Seasons of Love,” I question whether or not you are human.

As I sat in the back row, surrounded by teens in the $10 rush ticket section, they clapped along, cried, waved their hands in the air, said the lines, sang, cried again and hugged each other before going home. “RENT” is really about two things – “Take me for what I am,” (each other as well as life), and you’ve got “no day but today” to get on that.

“RENT” is a true communal effort. This cast (Jonna Ahn, Rachel Bega, Rueben Carrion, Neil Clevenger, Charles Cook, Arianna Glouser, Kelsey Greenway, Ricky Jones, Sharleen Lagattuta, Kisha Milling, Shawn Naone-Burger, David Negaard, Isaac Rauch, Francis Tau’a, Kalen Willits and Brett Wulfson) put on the kind of show people will be talking about on Maui for months, if not years. In that sense, who sang the best, danced the best, was the funniest or the prettiest (although it may have been Rauch as Angel) is irrelevant. When this wonderful cast sings “thank God this moment’s not the last, there’s only us, there’s only this our life are yours to miss no other way, no day but today,” they create a chicken-skin moment. Moments are the only things we are guaranteed of in this life, and if we don’t cherish them in the moment, it’s impossible to comprehend love, art, happiness or simply one special night out with the people we love.

This production may not be Broadway perfection, but it perfectly delivers every emotion the late Jonathan Larson wanted you to feel about his “one song, glory.” Perhaps after “RENT,” when our more perfect self encounters the purple van/church parked illegally in Paia, instead of saying “they’re crazy” we’ll say “La Vie Boheme.”

* “RENT,” by Jonathan Larson, directed by Steven Dascoulias, choreographed by Sarah Loney and musicallu directed by Vania Jerome continues through Aug. 4; 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays at the Historic Iao Theater. Reserved seating tickets are $17 to $28, with a limited number of discounted rush tickets available two hours prior to each performance. For tickets or details, call 242-6969 or visit