I finally got round to seeing RENT the Musical last night – yes it was my first time, I know am I even a musical theatre fan?! I was actually put off RENT when I watched the film a while back. I loved a few numbers off the soundtrack but apart from that it didn’t leave me inspired. I spotted that it was coming to the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry a couple of weeks ago and with reasonable ticket prices and good reviews, I decided I’d give it ago.
Now I understand what all the hype is about. RENT tells the story of a group of struggling young artists in New York City in the late 1980’s. The story is actually based on the Puccini opera ‘La Boheme’ written a century before Rent but brought up to date to encompass the struggles of the time – HIV/AIDS, substance mis-use and homosexuality to name a few. RENT takes you through a year – or 525600 minutes – of love, disease, dreams and heartbreak as each individual story intertwines to form a stunning, emotional and raw image of the harsh reality of Bohemian NYC. It might be 20 years on, but this musical still rings true in so many ways.
RENT is one of those musicals which is almost completely told through song – kind of like Les Mis in that sense but in every other sense absolutely nothing like Les Mis. It is incredibly fast paced, which keeps you on the edge of your seat but if you let your mind wander, you may have lost the plot. It is described as a “rock musical” with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson which perfectly narrate the story whilst staying true to that Bohemian style. I enjoyed the way the odd Christmas carol was thrown into the mix at Christmas time and there was certainly enough comedic relief throughout – I’m looking at you ‘Over the Moon’. Never in my life have I sat amongst 900 people ‘moo-ing’ in unison. But RENT sends you on the harshest emotional rollercoaster of all, you’ll go from laughing till you cry to sobbing your heart out. It’s a rough ride, but one of those where you get off and want to run around to the entrance and do it all over again.
This particular touring production is of the highest standard. As soon as the safety curtain went up to reveal the stunning set behind, I knew I was in for a real treat. The casting is exquisite. Every single member of the cast gave their all to that performance and it was a joy to watch. When a cast is having that much fun on stage, its infectious. Their harmonies had my entire body covered in goosebumps and they perfected Lee Proud’s complex and innovative choreography to make it look easy. I could list every single member of this cast, but I’ll just stick to a few who really stood out to me.
Christina Modestou was on as Maureen and to my surprise, she was covering the role. God only knows why she isn’t the lead because her portrayal was flawless. She delivered her lines with perfect comedic timing and her voice packed so much power – such incredible all-round talent. A masterclass in reasons why you should never underestimate an understudy.
Philippa Stefani gave absolutely everything she had to Mimi, such raw emotion is a privilege to watch. Shanay Holmes was magnificent as Joanne and Ryan O’Gorman hit notes so low I didn’t know they existed. His ‘I’ll cover you – Reprise’ was perfection – so powerful and pure. I can only wish to one day be as flexible as Layton Williams who played Angel and I must say he looks bloody beautiful in a full face of make-up!!
I highly recommend this production of RENT! It is absolutely magnificent. You can catch it at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry for the rest of this week and then it heads to Nottingham and Tunbridge Wells. You can find out more over on the Rent UK Tour Website. Don’t miss out!!!
**FUN FACT!! Not only does the title RENT refer to last years un-paid rent in the story but the word rent can also be defined as ‘torn apart’ – pretty cool hey?!**
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