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      22.10.2002 05:09
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      In the words of the writer himself, Jonathon Larson, “Rent is about a community celebrating life, in the face of death and AIDS at the turn of the century”. This pop/rock musical is a modern take on Puccini’s opera, La Boheme, replacing the 19th Century threat of tuberculosis with the late Twentieth Century threat of AIDS. Despite the fact that this musical deals with some very serious issues, including homelessness and AIDS, the musical as a whole has a very positive feel to it. The message that it promotes is to live life for the moment and celebrate it- the curtain falls to the sound of the entire cast singing “No day but today” and this is the philosophy of the show. It is made all the more poignant by the fact that Jonathon Larson himself died unexpectedly the day before his show was due to open off-Broadway. He never got to see the applauding audiences or read the rave reviews that his show inspired from critics and the general theatre-going public but his work continues to delight audiences around the world. The plot centres on a group of friends living in a grungy, bohemian district of New York, the main storyline of the show being the love story of Mimi, a drug addict dying of AIDS, and Roger, who is also HIV positive. The show features a whole host of other interesting characters including Mark, an amateur filmmaker who lives with Roger; Angel, a drag queen who (yep, you’ve guessed it!) is dying of AIDS, and Maureen, a leather clad lesbian performance artist. The characters are well drawn, especially Mimi, who seems sexy and outwardly confident but intensely vulnerable and yearning to be loved. The plot follows La Boheme very closely but with a (rather cheesy) twist at the end. The songs are fantastic- very pop orientated with a wide variety of styles (ballads, tangos, rock songs etc.), which suits the setting and storyline (don’t expect Les Miserables type songs!), including Seasons of
      Love, Another Day, I’ll Cover You, Without You, La Vie Boheme and Your Eyes. I bought the soundtrack before I saw the show (always a risk!) and it has become one of my most treasured CDs. The show won a Tony Award in 1996 for Best Score (as well as three other Tony’s including Best Musical, a Pulitzer Prize for Best American Drama and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical) and has been incredibly well received by the critics as well as the general public. In terms of set and costume design, there is nothing elaborate to detract from the performances of the actors, leaving the songs and message of the play to stand alone and speak for themselves. This is not a Phantom of the Opera type show that needs to hide the fact that its music is rather sub-standard (much as I love Phantom, the tunes are all slight variations on operatic classics) behind impressive sets and magnificent costumes. As you have probably gathered already, this show is not particularly suitable for children, with lines such as “To sodomy, it’s between God and me- to S&M!”, but I think that this is a fantastic show for adults and teenagers with a really strong positive message- to enjoy and celebrate life. The running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes (long enough to get your money’s worth but not so long you start fidgeting/ falling asleep!) Rent is currently playing at The Nederlander theatre on Broadway (tickets priced $20-$85) and has recently finished a nationwide UK tour. Hopefully we’ll see it back on the West End soon! The official site for the show is www.siteforrent.com and there are loads of unofficial sites run by fans (which generally don’t tend to be very good!)

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