Written by 9:38 pm Costa Mesa, Costa Mesa Playhouse, Musical, Review, Theater, Uncategorized

Rent @ Costa Mesa Playhouse – Review

photo credit: Kerren Serna

Written by Patrick Chavis

We are fully into summertime, and it’s a good time for musicals. The powers that be have decided that the musical of the season is Rent, and I’m all for it! Costa Mesa Playhouse performs a slightly more adult version of this classic 90s musical. There is a little more affection on stage, and the second act is creatively and vocally stronger than the first in a variety of ways.

Rent is the story of a bunch of bohemians living in New York City at the end of the 20th century. The musical chronicles the stories of these primarily poor, struggling artists who are trying to get by in the city and are dealing with issues like substance abuse, housing, and the ever-worsening AIDS epidemic at the time.


First and foremost, this musical has a well-written book and songs. Like a lot of classics that continue to thrive through the years, it remains relevant decades later. I think the Costa Mesa Playhouse’s version of this musical, adding more grit to the production, was a good idea and a step in the right direction. While the space at the Costa Mesa Playhouse may be limited in some ways, I would say the creative choreography, especially in the second act, pretty much mitigates a lot of that. The first act, while perfectly acceptable, suffered from a lack of energy and vocal clarity in parts, and it did not possess the same level of creativity as the second act. But overall, is the story told and communicated well? Yes, and yes.


They opened the stage as much as possible for this show. It was vital. Rent requires a relatively large cast, and that cast takes up a lot of space on stage. The set looks like a pot heads apartment in or around the late 80s or early 90s, so that was period appropriate. The band is nestled on stage, with the actors hidden behind the coaches and cast. In the middle of the stage, a platform provided the actors an elevated area to perform. Also scattered around the set are different pieces of Christmas memorabilia, since Rent is set around the Christmas holidays. The set is practical but not so memorable and doesn’t do much to enhance the play’s overall tale.


Apart from some of the singing, just focusing on the acting in this production, it was very good throughout— especially the acting from Luz Rodriguez, who plays Mimi Marquez, a stripper and an addict. Rodriguez did a great job with the physicality of the character, really leaning into the stripper persona, which is not the whole character, but it is a part of the character.

It was a great casting decision to bring in George Carson to play Collins. This man has a beautiful baritone voice and uses it throughout the performance, and he combines it with solid acting. He’s undeniably a highlight of the show.

Costa Mesa Playhouse’s Rent is scrappy and interesting. With a more warmed-up cast at the beginning, it really can work wonders.

7.7 Overall
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July 7 – July 23, 2023.

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