Rent The Musical is the masterpiece (and legacy) of the late Jonathan Larson. A powerful piece of struggle and hope, telling the tale of 8 bohemian friends who’s lives all change by chance one Christmas Eve. Events that take place through the following year take the characters and audience on an incredible journey from joy to despair as they strive to get by despite their individual struggles including money, drugs and the dreaded AIDs virus.
It can be very disappointing when this show is produced badly but this version, the first major event from the new team at “Peak Productions”, was absolutely outstanding. A 5 star amateur production.
The show explodes into action within the first few minutes as the entire cast deliver a quite awe-inspiring title track – “Rent”. The energy displayed on stage by every cast member, whether lead or ensemble, was intense and by the end of the song, the scene was set and there wasn’t one audience member that didn’t enjoy the simply spine tingling opening to the show.
In fact, the ensemble really took this show to the next level. On stage for the entire show, watching the action, changing the scenes and coming alive for the group scenes – this ensemble was thoroughly engaging to watch. They remained in character for the entire show even when not in focus and it was clear that in every individual there was the talent to take on one of the lead roles. Professional ensembles will struggle to reach the exceptional standard set by this group.
The entire piece was delightfully directed by Jake Norton, a 17 year career actor who now lectures at degree level at LIPA. It was very clear that every detail had been considered but that Norton had a clear vision on how his version was going to take Rent to the next level.
The use of the company was exceptional, scene changes were quick and intelligent, almost making them part of the action to watch and most notably, the way that scenes were brought to life, with Roger dreaming about his old concert days during One Song Glory and Mimi at work in the Cat Scratch Club, making the journey to Rogers apartment during Out Tonight.
Rent is a difficult show to deliver and audiences are often confused but every word was clear and every scene explained by the excellent set, AV and direction of the scenes. There were even additional words that complimented the script and words that were spoken, rather than sung, in a number of places that would keep the audience completely up-to-speed.
With the genuine ability of this group of young performers it almost seems unfair to single out individuals, however there is some particular praise required.
Phil Teles Amaro is the perfect Mark, completely understanding the role and delivering a powerful performance – by day a Therapy Radiographer, there could easily be a second career in the arts for him.
Lauren Waine as Maureen was hugely confident and delivered one of the more difficult scenes to follow, Over The Moon, in a way that was completely understandable to an audience member who didn’t know the show but also in a thoroughly entertaining way. Her natural stage presence held the audience in the palm of her hand, turning a scene that is usually a difficult part of the show to get through, into one of the highlights. A career on stage is almost certainly on for this girl.
A role that requires careful casting is that of Angel and Aleksander Varadian was first class. He delivered the fun and comedy with expert timings whilst crushing the audience in Act 2 with the beautiful later scenes. All played alongside Jordan Alexander who delivered an emotional Cover You Reprise, another excellent casting in the role of Collins.
Joanne (Rachelle Diedericks) was delightful, witty and strong, Mimi (Jess Pritchard) was beautifully sang and confidently delivered and Roger (Andre Lassemo) had the voice that you hope that this character will, with challenging songs in a huge role, he delivered. Kieran Robets completed the 8 bohemians, as a strong Benny.
Of course Rent would be nothing without a group of exceptional singers, musically directed by a 3rd year LIPA student Callum Clarke very competently, the whole show sounding as good, if not better, than I have heard before professionally. A highly competent live band on stage helped to ensure this too.
In truth, I could write about this show for days.
I wish I was going to watch it again, unfortunately it closes on the 13th February. This was better than some professional performances and the whole team, cast and crew (of which there must be 50 people involved in this production) should be very proud of their achievements.
Rent was performed in the Sir Paul Mcartney Auditorium at LIPA, Liverpool between 11th – 13th February 2016.