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Review: Nicole Scherzinger Shines, Vanessa Hudgens Flops In RENT At The Hollywood Bowl

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Nicole Scherzinger

Nicole Scherzinger was a standout in Rent last night at the Hollywood Bowl.

The opening of RENT last night at the Hollywood Bowl proved to be a very lively event indeed. Hours before the cast was set to hit the stage, attendees had lined the streets of Highland Blvd., waiting anxiously to be let into the Hollywood Bowl and begin their evening of song and dance. Once the flood gates were opened, fans began to pour into the Bowl, and the atmosphere turned lively, friendly, and upbeat.

The cast was filled with celebrities and veterans alike, including Tracie Thoms, Nicole Scherzinger, Vanessa Hudgens, and Wayne Brady. Initially, there was shared concern that this cast was too celebrity-heavy, and that it would compromise the quality of the production and the integrity of its director, Neil Patrick Harris.

The MVP (most valuable performer) of the night, without any doubt, was Nicole Scherzinger\’s stylistic and comical interpretation of Maureen. Don\’t let the Pussycat Doll reputation fool you, because this diva brought everything she had to the plate tonight to steal the show from right under everyone\’s feet. Her most powerful moment came during her number “Over The Moon”, where her vocal chops electrified the audience and her comedic timing and acting skills were surprisingly far more developed than the majority of her peers.

Unfortunately, Disney princess Vanessa Hudgens had a much more difficult time transitioning to the stage. Her vocal chops, which immediately came into question when it was announced she had been cast as Mimi, proved to be very weak and unpolished. She was out of tune most of the night, sometimes even entirely off key. She flubbed a line or two in “No Day but Today”, and completely got off rhythm during “Without You”, forcing the band to awkwardly adjust to what she was singing.  Also, her acting chops were mediocre at best, completely sterilizing some of the most emotional moments in the show. She had absolutely no connection with her better-half Roger, played by Aaron Tveit, and together they displayed a very weak, unemotional pairing on stage. Whether it was just first-timer\’s nerves or otherwise, watching Vanessa pull herself through this show was more uncomfortable than sitting on the wood benches we were assigned to sit on in the venue.

wayne brady

Wayne Brady's performance left an emotional imprint.

The cast as a whole was extremely talented, with veteran Tracie Thoms taking the reins and leading the cast all the way through the production with her past experience.  There was no doubt in anyone\’s mind that the strongest connection on stage came from Wayne Brady and his partner Telly Leung, who played Collins and Angel. Their vocals were subtle, but completely appropriate and beautiful, and it felt as if they had been performing as this duo for years together.  Wayne Brady left a very emotional imprint on the audience with his soulful rendition of the “I\’ll Cover You reprise” during one of the saddest scenes in the show.

It was apparent that this show had come together very quickly, as it completely lacked a general cohesiveness and flow. The cast did not connect with one another, nor did they connect to the audience most of the time. Many of the more emotional moments in the show seemed to be rushed through to make time for highlighting certain cast members, making it feel more like a concert than a show.

Jacob Samples is a Clinical Psychology grad student at Antioch University who has numerous theater and music productions to his credit, both local and professional. He thinks LA is one of the great cultural epicenters of our nation once you get past the shameless Lakers basketball promotions and plastic personalities and faces.
  • JoeChief

    “Unfortunately, Disney princess Vanessa Hudgens had a much more difficult time transitioning to the stage. Her vocal chops, which immediately came into question when it was announced she had been cast as Mimi, proved to be very weak and unpolished.”

    Hmm I guess you’ve either been watching a different play, or you’ve been falling asleep since the get go. From the audience reception and from what I saw in youtube videos, she actually pretty well and the reception was anything BUT negative for the most part. Seeing as how you back up nothing you have here, it’s safe to chop this up to petty spite.

  • Janet

    JoeChief you must be really busy attacking all the reviewers of Rent because everyone has made similar comments about the poor performance from Vanessa and the brilliant performance of Nicole.

  • Kurt

    JoeChief – Did you even attend opening night? If you did, and had any ear for musical talent, you would have noticed that she could have greatly benefited from Autotune and acting lessons. Her acting was completely uninspired, her stage presence was nonexistent, and her vocals were weak. Honestly, when leaving the Hollywood Bowl, I did not hear one single positive comment from audience members regarding her performance. Even fans of hers were saying that “she was 50% on and 50% off”…those odds do not cut it when performing in a venue of that caliber.

  • Jacob Samples

    JoeChief-

    I value your opinion and appreciate your point of view, however, I was very much there opening night with a fantastic view of the stage and the show, and I assure that I was wide awake throughout the entirety of the performance, and I must say, Vanessa was a train-wreck from the moment she came on stage and opened her mouth for “Light my Candle”…I am sure she is a sweet girl with many talents, but live theater is not one of them, and I stand by my review…thanks!

  • DonnyYong

    I’m inclined to agree. And I’m not saying I hate Vanessa. I think she’s got potential to do well in this business. I think she’s done well with her HSM movie series and even the last one that came out. Having said that I concur with the reviewer in saying that last night, she was a complete and utter miscast. I was there just like a lot of people and, I couldn’t enjoy it. I really couldn’t. And I’m not saying this because I am trying to rain on her parade and maybe we can chalk it up to first night jitters and inexperience since she’s been on the stage for a LONG time. I mean if the last time she was on stage was when she was 10 or so? Yeah she’s out of practice.

    And I get it. I really do. I mean acting on stage is completely different than acting on film. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. You don’t have to be in character constantly when you are working in film and if you flub up a line or sing off tune, you could always stop between takes to readjust yourself. It’s a completely different element and Vanessa seemed to be out of it. And like I said, I get it, she was out of her element performing on stage. That doesn’t however excuse the fact that she was ho hum at best. She needed a LOT more practice and maybe something smaller to start back with. I just think she bit off more than she can chew.

  • http://wwwpiczocom nesa

    i loooooooooooovee niiiiccoolee…<3

  • Paola

    I LOVE VANESSA!!

  • joan

    i Love Vanessa too and she Did Great she is the best EVER¡¡¡¡

  • Jeff

    Ok first off Joe Chief, there is no need to insult the reviewer for not agreeing with him. There\’s no need for that. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and this is the reviewers.

    Now for the topic at hand, I am inclined to agree with everyone in saying she gave a rather lack luster performance. And I\’m not saying this because I hate her. In fact I support her in what she wants to do and I hope she accomplishes everything she wants in life. I really do. I think she has legitimate talent and a chance to really do well in this business. However for RENT, I have to admit that she was completely unprepared and it shows.

    And like I said, I say this with a heavy heart because I really do believe she is capable of pulling off a good role. Possibly on a live stage if she really worked at it. I really do think she has the tools to do so. She wouldn\’t have been in four musically theme movies and garnered generally positive reception from the critics if she didn\’t have the tools and the know how.

    It would be like if a cook had all the raw materials to make an elaborate delicious meal as well as the know how to cook. But he never made a meal of such a caliber before and didn\’t take any preparation FOR said meal, and then it\’s going to turn out bad. And that\’s what happened here. She was unprepared.

    And yeah she got a standing ovation along with everyone and yeah she got cheers, but you\’re going to get that in any big production. Not to mention there were a ton of HSM fan girls there cheering on their favorite actress.

    But in general yeah her reception for her performance was negative. Mixed AT BEST. I agree with the person who said she was “50 percent on and 50 percent off”. This makes it worse knowing that with a little more preparation she could\’ve done better. And I hope she does. I really do.

    She should take this as a lesson. Because negative reviews can be a good thing. You learn from the mistakes you made and you learn to better yourself as a performer.

    But in her defense, stage acting is VERY different from motion picture acting. You don\’t have the luxury of the director yelling “cut” when you made a mistake or the added bonus of taking breaks in between scenes and what not. You have to CONSTANTLY be in character and on point. Also you\’re not performing in front of a live audience in a movie so there\’s also that. It\’s a VERY different experience.

    None the less she at least attempted the role. And I give her credit for that. That’s about it. Maybe one day in the future with more experience and preparation, she\’ll do better. I hope so. Like I said, she should learn from those negative reviews.

  • Austin

    Um i am a huge RENT-HEAD and honestly i believe Vanessa Hudgens did great i saw the show on the 7th and she blew me away, honestly i entered the venue doubting her ability to play mimi but after she sang light my candle i was in total shock to see that she could actually play another role besides a “disney princess” anyway she did great and i cant believe you would think so, obviously you dont know how to evaluate a musical theater performance.

  • Jacob Samples

    Austin-

    Glad to hear you enjoyed the show Saturday night! I was actually there opening night on the 6th, so we saw different shows to some degree I’m sure…however, I am actually collegiate and professionally trained in musical theater (which is not something I willingly talk about on here typically) and I have a lot of college and professional theater credits to my name, so I actually know EXACTLY how to evaluate a musical theater performance, but I do appreciate your tenacity and fan-dedication to Ms. Hudgens (a girl who has NEVER done theater), thanks for the comment though!

    -Jacob Samples-
    L.A. Theater Contributor

  • Caroline

    Vannessa needed a shot before she went on stage to warm up her pipes; At least she has good hair though.

  • Austin

    Jacob-
    Im sorry to have pushed your buttons, and quite honestly i am far from a “Ms.Hudgens” fan lol. and your right we did see two different performances, every live performance is different every single time am i correct? Anyway im glad to see you read up on the people that comment your blogs, i agree with you completely on the rest of it, i just dont think vanessa was horrible. And for someone that doesnt have theater experience dont you think she did great?

  • Jacob Samples

    Austin-

    No buttons pushed, I assure you…it’s my job to review, critique, and write…I definitely appreciate all of my readers’ opinions at all times, so I make it a point to respond to my readers’ comments as much as I can to let them know I am right there with them and listening to what they have to say
    ; ) We all have different opinions, so of course mine will be different then others’…but I definitely stick to my review. I am sure Vanessa is a very sweet young woman, and i’m sure she tried her best, BUT, if one is bold enough to take such an enormous role, at an enormous venue, in an enormous production, and in front of an enormous amount of people, one better be sure they are darn good at what they are doing, because one knows that the critics, fans, and the public are watching ; ) Unfortunately, she failed pretty miserably…

    • Austin

      Jacob-
      I’m really glad you keep up with your readers and i agree we all have different opinions haha you and i seem to be the same hard headed lol you should email me some time to talk about our opinions about other musicals :)

  • Alice

    I’m not going to throw out theater cred’s because I have none. However, when I pay $100+ for a ticket, I expect a little more from a lead. I wonder why she thought she was ready for something this big. She is not ready for the theater and should practice on smaller venues before she puts herself out there as a professional. Thankfully, Nicole saved the show for me.