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Seasons Of Love
Date: 03/12/01, updated on 10/02/04 (510 review reads)
Advantages: A different musical, Great ensemble cast, Original music
Disadvantages: Adult material- leave the kids at home
Many have said that Rent is a milestone in musical theatre and it is still playing to packed audiences on Broadway. But can it offer you a break from "Behind You" style panto antics and LLoyd Webber's domination of the West End theatres?
"WE'RE NOT GONNA PAY LAST YEAR'S RENT"
WHAT'S RENT ABOUT?
Writer Jonathan Larson wrote Rent when he was 29 years old. His aim was to write a musical on a huge scale but at the same time bring something to the stage that had not been achieved before. Forget the gimmicks of musical theatre- such as helicopters, phantoms, 80's nostalgia and people dressed as cats! Larson wanted to reflect the impact of AIDS on America and the rent riots in Alphabet City. He wanted to make something autobiographical. Each and every character in Rent is based on someone that Jonathan Larson knew.
SOME MORE BACKGROUND
Rent is set during the 1980's in New York. The spiralling rent increases in Alphabet City created heated protests and rioting. The poor neighbourhood of Alphabet City united with the homeless as for each resident the threat of losing their house was never far away. Nver was the gap wider beween the 'haves' and the 'have nots.'
ROGER- (Damien Flood) is an angry rock musician. He is HIV positive and believes that time is running out. He wants to write one last rock song before he dies.
MARK- (Adam Rickitt) is the narator of the musical. He is a film maker who has filmed evidence of the riots. A geek but a lovable one at that.
COLLINS- (Mykal Rand)- is an anarchist and dreams of life in Santa Fe- home of dreams. He longs for love too.
ANGEL- (Neil Couperthwaite)is a street kid, a guardi
an angel who also looks mighty fine in a dress!
MIMI- (Debbie Kurup) is a Latino wildchild. She is on heroin and is pretty low until she meets Roger.
JOANNE- (Wendy Mae)- is Mark's ex and Maureen's latest. She is a yuppie- headstrong and determined.
MAUREEN- (Lucy Williamson) is a performance artist. She is the 'Phoebe' type character who has many of her friends in stitches with her 'smelly cat' style musical numbers!
FRIENDS TILL THE END
Four of the key characters in Rent are HIV positive. But if you are thinking that this hit musical could be one of the most depressing things you have ever seen on stage- you will happily be proved wrong. Although the subject itself is heart-breaking, the delivery contains the right amount of humour, pathos and poiganancy to make the bitter pills that life throws at these characters far easier to swallow.
Much of the humour in Rent comes from the songs. Larson has created a musical where tragedy looms at every turn but like Blood Brothers and Spend Spend Spend- the songs have a habit of lifting you rather than leaving you on the floor with your missing maltesters!
Standout songs include:
LIGHT MY CANDLE - a delightful love song which is later used again as a sad lament to a dying character.
SEASONS OF LOVE- A really uplifting song which features the whole cast. Think of a great anthem and Seasons Of Love fits that bill.
WITHOUT YOU- One of many songs which will move you to tears. Without You is one of the saddest songs I have heard in a musical. It has the power to move upon hearing the opening bars.
VOICEMAIL- a great collection of songs which are sung into Mark's answerphone. A terrfic send of the modern world and how each of us can be contacted in so many ways but still remain 'out' when we are needed!
There are many more songs w
orth a mention but with about 40 different titles it's hard to mention them all!
I have seen Rent 5 times so have seen many different actors in the cast, including Joe McFadden through the Broadway originals. I saw the current cast when the show came to Manchester So I will focus on them.
I believe that this one time pop puppet will surprise many with his interpretation of Video geek- Mark. He has an ok singing voice and has real stage presence. The only problem I had was with his looks. Mark is supposed to look geeky. But casting Adam means that Mark looks like a geek from a Gap ad- ie not 'real' - plastic looking with national health style glasses. But I suppose that's box office appeal for you!
Damien Flood never entirely convinces us that he is a rock star in waiting. He looks like a BoyZone extra and therefore did not push all the right emotive buttons for me. His singing voice is fine but I have seen better actors playing Roger.
The role of transvestite Angel is a toucgh one to carry off as the character features in many of Rent's saddest scenes but Neil more than lives up to his predecessors.
Debbie plays the sexy Mimi with ease. She is a strong girl on the outside but inside she's falling apart. Again she has tough scenes when literaly her life is falling apart. But she manages to retain the audiences sympathies with her character.
OVERALL- IS IT WORTH PAYING THE RENT?
With musicals closing all over the West End and many not lasting beyond six months- Rent is refreshing to watch. It is a challenging musical which deals with many issues; homelessness, sexuality and the blurred lines beween what society says that it accepts and what it superfici
ally accepts in reality. It also deals with the age old tale of relationships and who we turn to when they break down. The main reason for seeing Rent is that it is so different. No gimmicks are to be found here. The musical upset middle England and in particular The Daily Mail. But it is great to see something which is not twee and filled with saccharine. At times Rent will make you laugh, cry and even cringe. When was the last time you did all three of these things in a theatre? Without a flashy set piece in sight- Rent is a performance led piece of musical theatre which does not need to be flash. Its simplicity is the thing that you admire as you leave the theatre.
TOO MANY ISSUES?
You may be thinking that you are in for a heavy night out and that Rent may try to hammer home all these issues and leave you with a headache. But believe you me- it is all approached with such subtlety that for example- characters just happen to be gay rather than it being the main issue in the storyline. Drugs and HIV are each dealt with sensitively. You get a real sense of being there because the late Jonathan Larson knew what he was talking about. He has lived Rent and therefore this is not a glossy, preachy musical. It's a tale told from his heart rather than approached in a "how can we get people into a theatre?" kind of way.
If though you are expecting a cosy West End feelgood musical in the same musical genre as Cats or Phantom I would steer clear of Rent as there is nothing cosy about it at all. The irony was watching this musical about homeless people- hearing people cry wiping their tears in the stalls and then walk straight past the homeless people outside! But that's life. Seriously, if you are easily shocked- do not be fooled by the baggage of Rickitt's teen appeal. This is an adult musical.
WHERE CAN YOU SEE IT AND WHEN?
Prince Of Wales Theatre from 4 December until 26th January.
1)If you book before 7 December you can take advantage of a 2 for 1 offer. Visit- www.whatsonstage.com for more details.
Ticketmaster have a current two for £35 offer on the site-www.ticketmaster.co.uk (Mon-Thurs).
Thanks for reading and for the crown. Really appreciated.
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