Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Why Rent is still on the money

Going to the theatre is a great experience, going to see something for the first time is a better one. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its original Broadway production, Rent is doing a limited run at the St. James' Theatre.

Rent is the Pulitzer Prize winning musical by Jonathan Larson, who sadly passed away mere days before the first show in Broadway. Yet his legacy and drive for success has always been apparent in the collaborative unity of the show; a group of rag tag individuals from differing social, cultural and racial backgrounds come together to make life long friendships.

Set upon the text of Puccini's La Boheme, the musical is the calling card of young Americans fighting off the disillusionment and alienating effect of living in America (at the end of the Millennium).

For that reason, Rent still remains a significant and unique piece of theatre that is both timeless and prescient. Watching the piece now in an age when America has elected a celebrity as their President still there is this divide between the expected normality of sexual relations, heightened tensions between communities of differing races. However, there is still the music of the soul and heart of performance.

Rent unabashedly gives high praise to the creative souls who endeavour to make good work in whichever chosen media as a means of expression (Mark) or protest (Maureen).

This production is directed by Bruce Guthrie was one of immense talent and conviction; the performers sang with such ferocity and fierce pride in their work that the emotion was washing over the audience in abundance.  The spirit of collaboration was there when the small cast came to sing 'Seasons of Love' at the start of Act II, when the big verses where sung by the periphery/background actors giving them a platform to raise the roof and showing they are a match for the principles.

Standout performances come from Layton Williams as Angel, full of physical dexterity and electrical vocal range and Ryan O'Gorman as Tom Collins, using his velvety rich baritone to engender real feeling into his solo songs 'Santa Fe' and 'I'll Cover You'; and it is fitting that Williams and O'Gorman have a great chemistry in their ensuing loving relationship on stage.

The musical Rent is on at the St. James' Theatre until 28th January. I suggest you go and treat yourself to see a brilliant production of a timeless piece of musical theatre that will stand the test of time; one that like the greatest of musicals (Oklahoma, West Side Story) that continues to resonate due to its universal themes of love, friendship and community.  These themes still ring true to us all.

525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year? How about love?

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