“How do you document real life when real life is getting more like fiction each day?”

That is the first line of the opening song in ”Rent,” a musical that changed the theater world through memorable characters, rock-style music and incredible storytelling two decades ago.

In June, I had the opportunity to see the national tour of “Rent” at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City. The tour was here for a week and recently finished its final performance, although it resumes with a new cast in August.

I had only heard some of the songs prior to seeing the show, and I had a limited knowledge of the plot. As I learned throughout the performance and through the program, “Rent” centers on the lives of young, poor adults living with AIDS in New York City. It’s set in the 1990s, with the first act taking place on Christmas Eve and the second occurring over the next year.

All of the actors and actresses were excellent. Even though I hadn’t seen the show before, I understood what was going on and was very invested in the characters. This show has a lot of perspectives that I’ve never considered and I loved seeing a story from a new point of view — people in poverty, struggling with AIDS and with different sexual orientations. The characters face those obstacles and others that I have never had, and it was very interesting to see a representation of what those struggles could be like.

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Several stand-out characters for me were Angel, Maureen and Mark. Angel was played by Javon King, who had a lot of energy and did extremely well with the choreography for his solo song (which was done in heels). His acting was very believable and portrayed the caring, comical and emotional parts of his character well.

Maureen was played by Lyndie Moe who put her own spin on the flirty character. She made Maureen very memorable with her sassiness and her incredible vocals.

Mark, played by Logan Marks, was my favorite character. He documents the events of the show through film and is the central character, although most of the drama occurs to the people around him. He felt like the most real character to me. His songs all sounded incredible. While I wasn’t expecting to like him the most, the character development and the actor made me feel excited when he came onstage.

One of the things I was most impressed with was the “Rent” set. Using the same basic structures, the set was an alley, restaurant, apartment and many other areas. It really helped to tell the story and set the scene.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the live music. The score features a lot of guitars and drums, as opposed to classic orchestral instruments, and this put a lot of power into the songs. The musicians were all excellent, and added a lot of emotion to the show.

The most popular song is “Seasons of Love,” which occurs at the beginning of Act II and is sung by the whole cast. Most of the musical numbers in Act I were full of energy and fun, including “Out Tonight,” “Rent” and “Today 4 U,” while Act II slowed down with more emotional numbers like “I’ll Cover You (Reprise),” “Without You” and “Your Eyes.” This change reflects how the characters and their lives have changed, which was an interesting progression.

The lyric writing was very clever and unique for a musical as well — a lot of the show is sung very fast. The lyrics are poignant and have clever rhymes. For example, in “Today 4 U,” the word “groan” is rhymed with “Mercurochrome.” The lyrics don’t sugarcoat anything, and portray the lifestyle of New York City. Often, the characters sing what people would normally just say in conversation, making the words seem like they could be real life.

One of my favorite songs was “Take Me or Leave Me,” which is an upbeat song in Act II sung by the characters Maureen and Joanne. The actresses put their own spin on the melodies, making the number more interesting, but kept the energy and anger of the original song. The most showstopping number was “La Vie Bohème,” performed at the end of Act I. It goes nearly 10 minutes, and the sheer number of lyrics make it hard to hear everything, let alone memorize it! The whole cast participates and it is the pinnacle of energy in the show, which made it amazing to see live. The piece centers on bohemianism, as all the characters live untraditional lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed “Rent.” All the elements came together beautifully and told a powerful, emotional story. While I would not recommend this show for families or kids due to the subject matter and language, I think it was an amazing live experience and I will definitely see it again if I have the chance.

Annie Roe will be a junior this fall at Ogden High School. She enjoys theater, reading and watching romantic comedies. She can be contacted at annie.roe25@gmail.com.

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