Saturday, February 6, 2010
Show #6 "Rent" at Tacoma Musical Playhouse
Artistically speaking, I feel as though I live in Peoria. You know that old saying, when someone has a brilliant idea for a play, movie or some other enterprise? "Yes, but will it play in Peoria?"
Peoria...the synonym for "mainstream," "Main Street, USA," or "ordinary man-on-the-street suburbia."
It's been said that Tacoma audiences like their theatre safe, somewhat conservative and predictable. The theater seats are mostly filled with middle-aged and elderly viewers. If you want to pack the houses each weekend, conventional wisdom tells us, stay with mainstream, tried-and-true shows such as "Oklahoma," Neil Simon comedies or just about any British farce.
But, as I watched the non-safe, not-so-conservative "Rent" last evening at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse, I looked around me just to assure myself I was still on 6th Ave. in my humble town of Tacoma, WA.
What I witnessed there was a wonder to behold.
First, I saw a first-rate production that could hold its own against ANY professional company anywhere. Lest you think I am just a gushing Pierce County fan, let me assure you that I have held season tickets with such fine companies as the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Intiman Theatre, and ACT, as well as attending many shows at the Paramount, 5th Avenue and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. I know good theatre when I see it.
Second, I saw a near-capacity crowd of mixed ages and ethnic backgrounds enjoy a story that TMP has billed as "R-rated" entertainment. AIDS, homosexuality, violence, drug use and tragic, early death were among the themes of the evening. Not exactly a show where the opening scene tells us, "oh, what a beautiful morning" it is...
At the end of this amazing show, the audience rose to its feet and cheered. Blue-haired members and well as those still wet behind the ears applauded their hearty approval. In the lobby afterward, I overheard an elderly patron say, "They said this was R-rated. I didn't think so...it was really GOOD!"
"Rent" has played to adoring crowds in theatre towns such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and (ahem!) Seattle. But will it play in Peoria?
Who knows...but I am proud to announce that it WILL play in Tacoma.