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Cappies: McCluer provides one hundred and fifty moments so dear

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 19, 2013 - Love comes in all shapes and forms, and although at times it is chaotic, what matters in the end is the happiness that comes with it. This bohemian ideal shone through in McCluer High School’s production of “Rent.” With passionate acting and memorable vocals, the cast captivated the audience with its interpretation of this well-loved musical.

Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece is based on Puccini’s opera “La Boheme,” but adapted to themes that affected the people around him in 1990s New York City. Rent follows a group of starving artists trying to fulfill their dreams in a harsh environment. Tumultuous relationships and drug addictions are just some of the problems that plague this band of friends, but in each other they find the strength to carry on.

Lavalle Moore’s take on Roger Davis burned with sentiment in ballads like “One Song Glory” and “Without You.” Moore’s voice held that typical rock ‘n roll rasp, which rode smoothly along his harmonies with Mimi Marquez (Adrienne Thompson). The pair’s chemistry was electric at times, and neither faltered even through their tears.

Even with a small cast, each member had his or her moment in the spotlight. Comical and dramatic, Maureen Johnson (Alexis Tucker) razzed the audience while staying in character. Tom Collins (De’Angelo McGary) brought incredible power with both his acting and his vocals. McGary portrayed one of the best romances in the cast alongside Dereis Lambert, who played Angel. An unexpected star came through in JoAnne Jefferson (Jessica Williams) — her rich tone reverberated throughout the auditorium, and her commanding alto made her one of the best vocalists a high school has recently produced.

While some actors handled the absence of body microphones well, others consistently failed to project or enunciate. However, the sheer range of emotion displayed by almost all cast members lessened the impact of this problem.

Particularly during Angel’s funeral, every word pulsed with feeling; the grief and brokenness was depicted so viscerally that it seemed like a real event. In spite of some obviously spent vocals, most performers were able to pull through and gave in emotion what may have been lacking in range.

Gray scaffolding strung with lights provided the set. Paired with a backdrop adorned with graffiti, Josie Meineke and Liz Baranowski brought out the urban feel of the show. Despite the lack of a sound board, Lavay Davis provided well-timed effects (remarkably, with an iPhone) which were still distinguishable.

It should be noted that McCluer High School is the first school in the St. Louis area to perform “Rent.” Yet, even with the edited school version, the cast and crew handled the mature content with tact while managing to deliver an impressive performance. McCluer presented a show coursing with raw talent, proving that love’s many seasons are nevertheless a joy to experience.

Carolina deLegarreta is a student at Notre Dame High School. The Cappies program works with students who review high school theatrical productions.

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