I had high hopes for the concert version of Rent that’s currently touring the country. It’s one of my favourite musicals and has been on my ‘see it live bucket list’ for a long long time. I sometimes think that’s dangerous, surely such high hopes and anticipation can only lead to disappointment? I’m unsure whether I was right …
Let’s start with the huge positive – this musical is great, it’s tragic, endearing and truly uplifting. You will leave with a sense of the fragility of life and the fleetingness of our time on this planet. Rather ironically, its writer Jonathan Larson passed away unexpectedly just weeks before the original cast’s first public performance. It’s strange because you can really feel the sense of urgency to live one’s life to the full in the music; I find it quite liberating to understand that it was in fact written by someone who was unaware they were about to die.
The show harbours some of my absolute favourite show tunes, well, some of my favourite songs in general. ‘Seasons of Love’ is a real highlight, but throughout we are treated to catchy tunes with a sort of rocky vibe that not only forward the plot but evoke a deep connection with the characters and their fate. I love ‘Another Day’, ‘Take Me or Leave Me’, ‘Without You’ and ‘I’ll Cover You’ too!
Experiencing those songs live is something I have dreamed of and will never forget.
Now, let’s get on to this specific production. It was more fully staged than its ‘in concert’ title suggests. There were props, costumes and choreography, in fact having seen the released DVD of the Broadway production it wasn’t that far from being a completely staged show. The set was simple, a sort of scaffolding type framework that housed the band, who remained on stage throughout. I guess I would generally describe the staging as simple but wholly adequate to allow the audience to fully understand the plot.
The ‘in concert’ premise was most highlighted with the cast. They were all great singers but their acting ability was a bit hit and miss. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great performances; Ian Stroughair and Ruthie Stephens who played Angel and Maureen respectively were both exceptional. However, I feel some other parts had been a bit miscast … In general, I am usually quite a big fan of Kerry Ellis, but I found her portrayal of Mimi wholly unconvincing, she sang well but played Mimi as far too girly, silly even; instead of the confident drug addict Mimi who works in a strip club .. ‘Out Tonight’ was quite cringeworthy. Sadly, I felt like she had been cast in any role they could fit her into just to sell tickets.
Overall I would say if you want to hear Rent sung well and you don’t mind a bit of cringy acting be sure to grab yourself a ticket; I certainly had an enjoyable evening and it received an energetic ovation! I think the musical was the star of the show instead of the cast for a change!