The opening of RENT last night at the Hollywood Bowl proved to be a very lively event indeed. Hours before the cast was set to hit the stage, attendees had lined the streets of Highland Blvd., waiting anxiously to be let into the Hollywood Bowl and begin their evening of song and dance. Once the flood gates were opened, fans began to pour into the Bowl, and the atmosphere turned lively, friendly, and upbeat.
The cast was filled with celebrities and veterans alike, including Tracie Thoms, Nicole Scherzinger, Vanessa Hudgens, and Wayne Brady. Initially, there was shared concern that this cast was too celebrity-heavy, and that it would compromise the quality of the production and the integrity of its director, Neil Patrick Harris.
The MVP (most valuable performer) of the night, without any doubt, was Nicole Scherzinger’s stylistic and comical interpretation of Maureen. Don’t let the Pussycat Doll reputation fool you, because this diva brought everything she had to the plate tonight to steal the show from right under everyone’s feet. Her most powerful moment came during her number â€œOver The Moonâ€, where her vocal chops electrified the audience and her comedic timing and acting skills were surprisingly far more developed than the majority of her peers.
Unfortunately, Disney princess Vanessa Hudgens had a much more difficult time transitioning to the stage. Her vocal chops, which immediately came into question when it was announced she had been cast as Mimi, proved to be very weak and unpolished. She was out of tune most of the night, sometimes even entirely off key. She flubbed a line or two in â€œNo Day but Todayâ€, and completely got off rhythm during â€œWithout Youâ€, forcing the band to awkwardly adjust to what she was singing.Â Also, her acting chops were mediocre at best, completely sterilizing some of the most emotional moments in the show. She had absolutely no connection with her better-half Roger, played by Aaron Tveit, and together they displayed a very weak, unemotional pairing on stage. Whether it was just first-timer’s nerves or otherwise, watching Vanessa pull herself through this show was more uncomfortable than sitting on the wood benches we were assigned to sit on in the venue.
The cast as a whole was extremely talented, with veteran Tracie Thoms taking the reins and leading the cast all the way through the production with her past experience.Â There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the strongest connection on stage came from Wayne Brady and his partner Telly Leung, who played Collins and Angel. Their vocals were subtle, but completely appropriate and beautiful, and it felt as if they had been performing as this duo for years together.Â Wayne Brady left a very emotional imprint on the audience with his soulful rendition of the â€œI’ll Cover You repriseâ€ during one of the saddest scenes in the show.
It was apparent that this show had come together very quickly, as it completely lacked a general cohesiveness and flow. The cast did not connect with one another, nor did they connect to the audience most of the time. Many of the more emotional moments in the show seemed to be rushed through to make time for highlighting certain cast members, making it feel more like a concert than a show.