So I’m a little biased. I’ll admit it upfront. My sister and Stephanie St. James were best friends in junior high and high school. They went through the same EXCEPTIONAL music program at Santa Rosa High and were taught by Dan Earl. Being some of the few “mixed” kids in town, Stephanie is like a cousin to me.
Stephanie has been touring and traveling the world doing what she does best, wailing and rocking the mic, but spends much of her life far away from us in New York and Los Angeles. We saw her last year (I believe) in San Francisco when “Oprah Winfrey’s: The Color Purple” came to town. Stephanie had the role of Squeak but I wanted to hear more. (You can imagine with a name like Squeak, her character’s voice didn’t feature the full rich sound I know she inhabits) When we heard that she’d be performing here in Santa Rosa, my sister and I jumped all over it.
Thank you, my dear sister Colleen, for treating us all to a wonderful Mother’s Day gift by taking us to the Sixth Street Playhouse. I am embarrassed to admit I had never attended a show there. For someone that spent her whole life in theater as a child, you think I’d go more!
I had only seen the movie version of Rent and knew that I was in for a treat to see it live. If you aren’t familiar, the story covers a year in the life of a group of friends that have no money, lots of dreams and problems, and many have AIDS. It’s a snapshot of love and pain, loss and joy.
The whole cast really did a great job but the two standouts for me were Stephanie as Mimi and Shannon Rider as Maureen. Maureen is talked about through the whole play and finally arrives (on a motorcycle, no less) just before intermission. She’s all rock and roll atop a table calling for a boycott against “the man” (my words) and fighting for artists to exist in a space they have claimed for themselves. It’s was a really funny protest including “Moo’ing at The Man” but what I’m really trying to get at is she is all fire and sex on a stick. I won’t mention that her voice is stage perfect. You know when you go to a show and the singers are “meh”? She is the opposite of “meh”. I was told that she is also the lead singer of Miss Kitty and The Big Dogs, a group I’ve heard plays locally. I absolutely MUST check them out now.
You know my feelings for Stephanie as a person but her voice is the opposite of “meh”. I should’ve brought tissue because I was struggling to keep it together throughout the whole second act. Flirty, fun, sexy, tragic, sad and loving are what she brought to the stage. We are so lucky that the stars lined up so she could come back and perform at home. I will miss her when she gets back on the train out of town but I’m so glad I was able to show my support and get my socks knocked off at the same time.
If you want to see Rent, it’s playing until June 27. Get going!