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Theater Review: Actors in ‘Rent’ at NCC have Broadway-bound talent

Every once in a while, in a Lehigh Valley musical, you see young actors who have Broadway-and-beyond talent. You make a mental note: “I saw them when ... “

Such is the production of “Rent,” through Aug. 7, Northampton Community College Summer Theatre. The July 31 performance was seen for this review.

While the cast of the NCC “Rent” production is outstanding, several of the leads are among the standouts of summer theater 2022.

Chief among these is Jadon Lopez (Angel), who is a great vocalist, has outstanding dance abilities and as an actor disappears into the role. Lopez has a strong voice and can hit the big notes.

Lopez brought the audience to his bright eyes, his engaging smile, his energetic body in every scene he was in. His rendition of “Today For You “ is riveting. Lopez’s duet on “I’ll Cover You” with Daniel J. Hurt (Collins) is phenomenally moving.

Charlie Leonard (Mimi) is another future star to watch. Leonard is a risk-taker on stage, even to hanging from the poles of the scaffold that backdrops the stage, moving and keeping the audience in view as she sings “Out Tonight.” It’s the show’s show-stopper. Just incredible.

Leonard is a terrific dancer and has a big voice. She projects a lot of sass in the number, “Light My Candle,” with Noah Detar (Roger). Her voice has a crystalline quality in “Another Day” with Detar and the Company and in “Without You,” with Detar.

Jake Ziman (Mark) is enthusiastic and welcoming. He has a relaxed stage presence. He fulfills his role as host of the proceedings, making the audience feel comfortable with the cast of characters in the warehouse loft where they are squatting when they stop paying the rent.

Ziman has an expressive voice, and a comedic side as in “Tango Maureen” with Nikki Cohen (Joanne). The nicely-executed choreography is by Tina Williams. Ziman provides the through-line for the show. He’s an effervescent presence.

There are many other memorable numbers, including “Over The Moon” by Meredith Doyle (Maureen); “We’re Okay” by Nikki Cohen (Joanne), “You’ll See” by Tyler Williams (Benny), Ziman, Detar, Hurt and Leonard, and the reprise of “I’ll Cover You” by Daniel J. Hurt (Collins) and the Company.

The Ensemble includes Nathan Angelo, Eriel Milan Brown, Todd Croslis, Joshua Crowley, Chase Fontenot, Madeline Gambon, Melina Heffner, Amelia Illingworth, Cade Kocher, Alyson Krawchuk, Savannah Madeira, Michael Mottram, Connor Sternberg, Andy Van Antwerp and Maxwell J. Wetherhold.

Music directors are Lucille De Masi Kincaid and Chad Miller.

Choreographers are Tina Williams and Eriel Milan Brown. Set and Lighting Design is by Brett Oliveira. Costumer is Brenda McGuire. Wlgs are by Kim Danish.

As a show, ”Rent” is showing its age. It takes place at Christmas and New Year’s Eve 1989 in the East Village, New York City. When was the last time anyone used voice mail? Coca-Cola and JPMorgan Chase did away with voice mail in 2015. Everybody knows the kids text, Tweet and TikTok nowadays. Lol.

Director Bill Muttimer is true to the text in the NCC production. The “Voice Mail” inserts (there are six) are fun and funny. They provide a connect-the-dots device for the plot. Alyson Krawhuck (Mark’s Mother) is hilarious.

Mutimer sticks to the times. Jonathan Larson (book, music, lyrics) wrote the play about an era. In this, Mutimer’s production succeeds.

Larson (Feb. 4, 1960 - Jan. 25, 1996) died of an aortic aneurysm the night before “Rent” began Off-Broadway previews. For an excellent insider’s view of Larson, see the extraordinary movie, “Tick, Tick .. Boom” (2021), staring Andrew Garfield as Larson and directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”) in his feature-film directorial debut.

The back story about “Rent” and Larson is more interesting than the play itself. Except for one thing: That song.

Almost every hit Broadway musical has at least one song that takes flight from the wings, soars off the stage and into the hearts and minds of audiences. That song is “Season of Love,” which opens Act II and has a reprise. The NCC “Rent” Company renders it beautifully (“Five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes ... How do you measure, measure a year?”).

If you need one reason to see “Rent,” it’s that song. There are many more reasons to see the NCC Summer Theatre production. How do you measure talent? See this talented young cast and find out.

“Rent,” 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5, 6; 2 p.m. Aug. 7, Lipkin Theatre, Northampton Community College, Main Campus, 3835 Green Pond Road, Bethlehem Township. The wearing of face masks is optional. Tickets: www.ncctix.org; 484-484-3412

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY CAYDEN KUNZ From left: Daniel J. Hurt (Collins), Jadon Lopez (Angel), “Rent,” Northampton Communty College Summer Theatre.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY CAYDEN KUNZ From left: Charlie Leonard (Mimi), Noah Detar (Roger), “Rent,” Northampton Communty College Summer Theatre.