Wales Millennium Centre 3rd April 2017
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson. This tour Produced by Robert Mackintosh and Idili Theatricals for Rent 20th Anniversary Production Ltd. Directed by Bruce Guthrie, Choreography Lee Proud.
Rent is (for me) the seminal Modern Musical, based on Puccini’s La boheme once known in some quarters as “The AIDS musical” I would say it is more the “Life Musical”. As for me the theme and outlook of the show is celebrate life, in whatever form it comes, as to be honest none of us know how long we have or what we will experience.
I saw the original London Production and own the DVDs of the Movie and the Last Performance on Broadway, and yet for me this production is the best. Something I don’t say often. As I heard a very clever lady say once “You never forget our first” so usually the first production you see is, for you, the one.
However for this tour the staging is great, the musicians excellent. There were one or two sound issues when I saw it but this was the first night in Cardiff and they didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the show.
The Cast: Billy Cullum ‘Mark Cohen’, Ross Hunter ‘Roger Davis’, Ryan O’Gorman ‘Tom Collins’, Javar La’Trail Parker ‘Benjamin Coffin III, Layton Williams ‘Angel Schunard’ Philippa Stefani ‘Mimi Marques’, Lucie Jones ‘Maureen’ and Jenny O’Leary ‘Joanne’ (Alternate, usually played by Shanay Holmes) were magnificent, capturing the essence of the characters, having brilliant performance skills: acting, singing and dancing all real ‘triple threats’ but also making the characters relevant and of the moment.
I must however draw attention to three of the cast: Layton Williams as ‘Angel’ was amazing, he lifted you up with his exuberance in the dance numbers and broke your heart in act II, Lucie Jones as ‘Maureen’ a character I normally struggle to relate to, as well as being one of the sexiest performances I have ever seen, has a voice to die for, and Philippa Stefani also a remarkable voice and acted the range of emotions required for this part impeccably. Special mention should also go to Jenny O’Leary who as an alternate amongst this stellar cast, more than held her own, and had the sort of vocal skills that deserve their own recording contract.
This may well be the sort of musical you don’t want to take young children to, although I honestly think the suggestion of 13 or above (which I’m sure I saw somewhere) is spot on. It is very raunchy in places, and with the language and themes of the show it is not for the feint hearted. I remember when I saw the London production a couple of the more senior members of the audience didn’t return for the second act. However I thoroughly enjoyed it, and believe it’s #NoDayButToday outlook and love your fellow man theme is one we can all aspire to.
Stand out songs for me were: ‘I’ll Cover You’ (the reprise of which I defy anyone not to be moved by), ‘Light my Candle’ a great modern ‘meet cute’ number and for vocal excellence ‘Take me of leave me’.
There are changes in this production, the set is (from what I remember) bigger, the orchestrations changed, although the only time I actually noticed this while watching the performance was during ‘Your Eyes’, I’m a sucker for the big belting guitar riff here but in this production it’s a ‘plain’ piano, but I can see what (I believe) they were going for a more intimate moment, and I have my original cast recording so I’ll give them this, as it definately worked on stage.
I left feeling moved, uplifted and with a new drive to make the most of every day, and look for the positive in situations and not always dwell on the negative, something I am sadly prone to do.
Go see this show if you get a chance!
At the Millennium Centre for the rest of the week and then check out their website http://www.rentonstage.co.uk for later venues.