The Corporate Gentrification

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Updated: Jun 26, 2022
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I chose to watch Michael John Warren’s production of Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway filmed on September 7th, 2008. This was the first time I watched this rock musical; I found the acting, directing, and production quality to be at a very professional level. The play was originally directed for the stage by Michael Greif. He is an American stage director who has won three Obie awards and received four Tony Award nominations, including one for Rent. The play’s plot is based on the Italian opera, La bohème and it revolves around the story of a group of poor artists struggling to survive and pay rent.

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The musical is split into two acts with a ten-minute intermission in the middle. The first act revolves around two roommates Mark, a filmmaker, and Roger, a rock musician-who struggle to stay warm and produce their art. This act introduces us to their friend, Collins who is attacked in the street but saved by Angel. Their landlord, Benny, who used to be their former roommate, asks them to pay up last year’s rent or be evicted. Mark decides to join his ex-girlfriend, Maureen, and protest the demolition of the building. Roger meets Mimi, who upon learning that they are united by AIDS, decide to start a romantic relationship with her. The second act revolves around how the inhabitants of Bohemia are rioting the locked-up building, death and addiction. The script highlights important issues such as HIV/AIDS, drug addiction and corporate gentrification. The play resonates with anyone who’s struggling with life, love, addiction and the yearn to leave a legacy for people to remember you when you’re gone.

Adam Kantor, a theater actor, played the role of Mark Cohen, a Jewish-American documentary filmmaker and his character also assumed the role of the narrator in the story. His performance was nothing short of impressive. He artfully bounced from scene to scene changing from narration to back to the role of the filmmaker. His character has been cheated on by his ex-girlfriend, Maureen, and it shows in his vice when he sings about how he is hurt by it. His performance was an accomplishment when he his reactions to every situation is pure and he projected his performance orally and visually to his audience. For the play concept to work, Mr. Kantor also had to believably convince the audience that he was traumatized by the effects of the corporate gentrification. Again, Mr. Kantor didn’t disappoint, embodying the mantle of a heartbroken man seeking any chance to make his documentary film and not struggle to stay warm in Bohemia.

Will Chase portrayed the role of Roger Davis, a struggling musician who is HIV-positive and ex-junkie. Mr. Chase was supposed to be the understudy for the role but was chosen to play Roger Davis on the night of the final performance and the taping. At the time of the production, he was less experienced than Mr. Kantor but he kept up with the rest of the cast. There were some clear physical choices that Mr. Chase made when playing “Roger”. In particular Mr. Chase, when playing “Roger” used very grand gestures that fit well with the acting style of a rock musician. When he changed to from scene to scene, there was a clear change of physical characterization. The grand gestures and overall presence of a rock musician vanished and were replaced by a sensitive guy who knows he doesn’t have a lot of time left due to his illness. While Chase played a difficult role, he handled them well and deserves praise for his efforts. Vocally, Chase didn’t have to handle any kind of accent, but there was very little vocal change when moving from “Roger-the rock musician” to the role of “Roger-a man who has his days numbered”. His reactions to every situation were genuine and his projection was orally and visually a success.

The set for the production was very simple but extremely effective. The design of the set was a complex, a tables, ladders, balconies, and fairy lights for the Christmas tree. The scenic design consisted of what you might expect to see in Lower Manhattan’s East Village. These tables and ladders, through some simple theatre magic and use of sound and lighting effects, transformed into various locations including the attic, a building lot, and the Life Cafe. The actors wore tattered clothes and clothes of low quality which were true to their characters. Through the use of lighting, beautiful music, and simple tricks, the audience was immersed in the magical world of Bohemia. The change in colors and dim lighting brought the elements of the production together with great effect.

In my opinion this production was excellent. Broadway is known for putting on professional level productions using talented amateurs from the theater community. This was the first time I watched Rent and it was magnificent. The actors were as talented as many professional performers. The director developed the concept that pulled the audience into the world of Bohemia while the actors juggled their roles and delivered perfection. Since I watched this musical online, I won’t be able to determine if this is better than a musical that I have seen live, which was The Rocky Horror Show. The storyline couldn’t be better but I do believe there can be some room for change in the set design as in designating certain areas for the different locations shown.

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The Corporate Gentrification. (2022, Jun 21). Retrieved from