RENT: High-impact, Credible Characters

Bobbie Nicholls

Knowing nothing about this musical I did some research before the opening night and discovered it is the second longest running musical in New York after Phantom of the Opera.

Its extended 12 year season will eventually finish off-Broadway in September this year.  It has spawned a film starring the original cast and has a strong following among the teens and 20s.

Described as a modern day version of Puccini’s opera La Boheme, it is a rock opera, with very little spoken dialogue.  It requires better than average voices to sustain the very difficult music, and a good band – both of which this production achieves under musical director Al Warren.

The set is clever, with several levels achieved with scaffolding, and a pseudo Christmas tree built of junk.
RENT is the story of a group of impoverished artists living in a New York loft.  At the beginning they are facing eviction by their formed friend, turned landlord, Benny (played by director Scott Andrew) on a cold Christmas Eve and despite the passage of time through the year, the weather never seems to get warmer.  The cast spends almost the whole show wrapped in coats and scarves.

In contrast, Liam Taylor, who plays transvestite Angel, has the best costumes and provides relief from the depression and financial problems of all the other characters.

It is not surprising drug addict and dancer Mimi (amazing newcomer to the Abbey, Edan Hunt) freezes to death, since she wears very skimpy clothing.

Mark (played by Phillip Gurney) provides a necessary commentary as he films the lives of his friends.  Mimi’s on again, off again boyfriend, the HIV positive Roger, is another valuable UCOL graduate, Richard Scott.

It would be unfair to pick out any one of the main actors for special mention because all are superb in their roles.  My best accolade is that I believed in each character.

Backed up by an able chorus of voices, the ensemble work was particularly impressive.  All the cast are wired for sound which was well balanced against the band.

However, I think the audience missed out on the full impact of this show because of the size of the theatre.  So much was happening at times it was hard to take in the overall effect, and the stage was, at times, crowded.

However, the use of tables and chairs as props was impressive.

A magnificent production obviously enjoyed by the cast.