Aaron Tveit, Nicole Scherzinger, and Vanessa Hudgens headline Neil Patrick Harris' all-star version of Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical at the Hollywood Bowl.
There's certainly no shortage of talent in the show, which tells the story of a bunch of downtrodden young New Yorkers attempting to live "la vie Boheme" while dealing with the specter of AIDS. As lead characters Roger and Mark, Broadway hotties Aaron Tveit and Skylar Astin sing very well and manage to periodically give shadows of real performances, but neither wholly inhabit his character.
Kicking the show into its highest gear is Pussycat Doll singer Nicole Scherzinger, who rocks the stage as Mark's ex-lover Maureen. Sassy, defiant, sexy, and delightfully funny, she's an oasis in an often banal first act. Her rendition of "Over The Moon" is so vivacious that she gets us to moo -- not because we feel we're meant to, but because we want to share in her joyful noise.
Scherzinger is perfectly matched with Tracie Thoms, repeating her movie role of Joanne. The pair's big duet, " Take Me Or Leave Me" is the show's most dynamic number. Conversely, Wayne Brady is pleasant if a bit too low-key as Tom Collins and Telly Leung's interpretation of his drag-queen lover, Angel, is a bit too butch. Simply put, he needs to "diva it up."
Still, the production's biggest misstep proves to be the stunt casting of High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens as the drug-addicted, sexually-experienced Mimi. Wathching Hudgens, who comes off as the most virginal stripper ever, is akin to viewing a YouTube video of a 7-year-old smutting it up to Beyonce's "Single Ladies." Moreover, her singing voice is weaker than expected. After a tepid "Light My Candle," she sounded winded on "Out Tonight." And when she's supposed to be strung out on drugs, she looks and sounds like she's nonchalantly hanging at the mall with her pals.