Rent by Jonathan Larson
20th anniversary production by Robert Mackintosh & Idill Theatricals Ltd
Curve, Leicester: 28 March - 1 April
Review by: Paul Towers, 28
'a rock opera of modern hardships.'
There are a fair few theatrical musicals that can be called crowd pleasers and in amongst those there are a few that are iconic. Rent is that rare breed of musical that everyone with even an inkling of musical theatre appreciation should see at least once.
I first saw Rent at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre in 2001 when it was directed by our very own Paul Kerryson who then took it out on a national tour.
This 20th anniversary production is directed by Bruce Guthrie on a set by Loren Elstein and features friend of Curve, Lucie Jones (last seen in Legally Blonde) as Maureen.
Rent is a story, echoing elements of opera La Boheme, about AIDS, poverty, drug use and homelessness in New York's East Village, an area where the struggling artists and bohemians gravitated to.
The set is a mass of girders, cast iron plates and discarded boxes. A very suitable backdrop for this raucous rock opera of modern hardships.
Overseeing this suffering is budding film-maker Mark (Billy Cullum) who documents it without really getting involved (a genius way to narrate the story). Mark's room-mate is Roger (Ross Hunter) and he gets a call from their gay friend Tom (Ryan O'Gorman) who is on his way over to their apartment. Unfortunately he is mugged but is rescued by drag queen Angel (superbly played by Layton Williams) with whom he falls in love.
Along the way, as they all battle to stop developers tearing down their miserable bit of Manhattan, various people discover they have AIDS, mirroring author Larson's friendship circle in the 80's, a time when HIV meant only months to live.
This may all sound very depressing. But it isn't. Alongside the amazing music there are loads of little funny bits to lift the spirits and Angel's drag antics are life affirming in their own right, supplying a sole sparkle of much needed glamour.
The entire cast are very physical, beautifully choreographed by Lee Proud and easily fill the main stage at Curve, despite having an onstage band squirrelled away on one side.
While most of the numbers are not what you would call hummable the second half opener, Seasons of Love, is the one that everyone will remember. Alongside, of course, Lucie Jones' bonkers rendition of Over The Moon.
Rent, and especially this production, is still as relevant as it was 20 years ago and continues to tour throughout the year.
Paul Towers http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/
Tour details on www.rentonstage.co.uk
Tickets for Curve at www.curveonline.co.uk
Production pictures by Matt Crokett