Arts Alive: Cappies Review of Hayfield High School's Production of Rent

By Communication and Community Relations
January 29, 2018

Fairfax County Public Schools students are talented actors, musicians, and visual artists. Many FCPS high schools participate in the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Critics and Awards Program for High School Theatre, otherwise known as the Cappies.

The Cappies is a program through which high school theater and journalism students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, write reviews, and publish those reviews in local newspapers. There are fifteen Cappies chapters across the United States and Canada. 

Editor's Note: Check out this review of Hayfield High School's production of Rent, written by Elizabeth Germain of West Springfield High School. 

"How do you measure a year in the life?" According to the hit musical Rent, performed recently at Hayfield High School, you "measure in love." 

Rent is a rock musical by Jonathan Larson, who tragically died the night before the show's off-Broadway opening in 1996. The show moved to Broadway on April 29 of that same year, won four Tonys, and ran for twelve years. It is loosely based on Puccini's opera La Boheme, and centers around a group of impoverished bohemian artists, many of whom are living with HIV/AIDS, struggling to survive in New York City's East Village in the early 1990's. 

Corbin Farrell skillfully embodied filmmaker Mark Cohen by attentively observing and filming the interactions of other characters. He covered inevitable theatre slip-ups with ease, such as when he gave a casual I-no-longer-care shrug toward the phone when it fell off the table. Jackson Miller demonstrated astounding vocal control as Roger Davis, shifting easily from belting to falsetto, and the rock-and-roll quality of his voice fit the ex-rock star perfectly. He had strong chemistry with Trish Hoang as Mimi Marquez, and their interaction in the background made their relationship believable. Hoang infused Mimi with killer confidence, aided by incredible vocals, and was unafraid to demonstrate her character's promiscuity. Yet, she also portrayed her character's decline due to drug addiction with honest emotion, finally breaking down and agreeing to go to rehab. 

Shannon Flack brought the energy of a diva to Maureen, well-balanced by Hallie Strelsky's more cautious attitude as Joanne. The relationship between Angel (Max von Kolnitz) and Collins (Marek Brown) appeared pure and honest, both in the romantic number "I'll Cover You" and in moments when they were in the background holding hands. Von Kolnitz's flamboyant energy and full commitment made Angel the light of the show, and Brown's "I'll Cover You (Reprise)" showed real anguish over the loss of Angel. As a whole, the cast expertly handled the show's mature topics. The ensemble remained constantly engaged and showed immense vocal skill, particularly in the beautiful harmonies of "Seasons of Love," which opened with a solo by Scarlett Alexander, who hit the highest note in the show with ease. 

The set gave the show its gritty vibe from the start, with monochromatic colorsthe decrepit studio center stageand caution-tape-covered fence to the side. The studio had stairs leading to its roof, creating levels that were well utilized throughout the performance. There was a video store with TVs, which were used to display dates as well as Mark's video at the end. A beautiful moon hung above the stage, made of hula hoops and wire spirals. The lighting aided characterization. For example, since Angel is a symbol of hope, the lighting was pink when Angel was present and also when Angel's presence was felt. Angel's Santa dress had Christmas lights on it, as Angel is the light of the show. Special effects such as the fog machine and snow machine were used tastefully. 

Rent is an uncommon choice for a high school theatre program, but the Dramahawks of Hayfield exceeded expectations, conquering the challenging vocal arrangement and sending a message about the importance of acceptance, hope, and, of course, love.