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When I first went to see Rent I didn't know what it was about and I was a bit uncertain when I read the programme and found out it revolves around drug use, lesbianism/homosexuality, HIV, death etc. I just wasn't quite sure how those topics would work in a musical.
Well it doesn't have much in common with The Sound Of Music but it is one of the most enjoyable, funny and catchy musicals I have ever seen. I thouroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.
The story line is about a group of friends living in a New York squat. It follows them through a year telling each of their stories. There is romance and some happy endings as well as illness and tradgedy.
The story line is very general but it's real feature is the quality of the music and in the London shows I have seen the quality of the cast. The songs are just so catchy you will be humming them over and over again for weeks afterwards.
I've actually seen it 3 times now and also have the CD which I play regularly.
For a good couple of hours of enjoyable entertainment and good music I highly recommend seeing it if you get the chance.
I don't think it is on in London at this precise moment (May 2009) but it does do occassional regional tours and does have some short runs in London periodically.
Ten years ago, Jonathan Larson hit the theater with his only but also breath-taking piece: Rent. Although he indicated all he wanted was presenting something fit young growing up with Coco-cola and MTV, the result turned out to be astonishing. It arose fire from off-Broadway to Nederland Theater, and ended up with 4 TONY awards and 1 Pulitzer. During Christmas of 2005, Rent led its way toward the screen to bring its glory to people outside the theater.
Modern La Boheme as it is called; Rent tells the story of a group of struggling artists in East Greenwich, New York. As the non-mainstream group, they face all kinds of problems beyond ours: HIV, drug, poverty and so on. But in the story those issues dont serve as eye-catching stuff for they are not emphasized as much as some may expects, nor they are condemned as they are in those moral clichés. All it focuses on is life issues, from which some. As a bohemian himself, Larson (playwright, lyricist and composer of Rent) adapted personal experience into his work. He delivers a vivid definition of modern bohemian: (clearly announced in La vie Bohemian) away from the routine of live (like so-called comfortable life of mid-class), pursuing their dream despite of the consequential poverty and suffering. It is their value that is non-mainstream and van ward, not that they are homosexual or suffer from HIV. To some degree, their passion and ideal inspire something within us, something that may be missing but still cherished. What we have in common pushes us into it over and over again, even if ten years later stuff used to be sensitive is no longer a stunt. Most of the incidents in the show coming from reality are so convincing that touching truth alone can fade those emotional stirring, dramatic but obviously fake scene and dialogue.
Whats more, his brilliant music and lyrics color up the realistic story. The rock style dynamic music is filled with energy and goes well the comparatively anti-traditional characters perfectly. It seizes the audience since the flaming opening number Rent, which presents the condition those bohemians are in and brings all of us into the mood. Similarly, Today for you, Out Tonight, La Vie Bohemian, Living in America and etc, all express how they live. No matter joy or sorrow, gain or loss, the songs announce that they love the way it is (even the way Angle dies is so embellished), which symbolize the theme, aim and value of those artists, so different from ours but so lively that we could resist the enchantment. If you are not a spiritual pioneer, there is something for you too. Soulful whisper and confiding from numbers like Life Support, I should Tell You, Without You call also warm your heart with their emotional convulsion even though we may has become indifferent towards the instigative and over-embellished mage shock from like Miss Saigon. Though in a rock tongue, Larsons music doesnt fade in front of those symphony or opera-inclined pieces. Without strict musical construction and multi-vocal-part arias, it hit you heart and soul because of sincere notes full of expression and love. The fierce confrontation in the antistrophic No Day but Today can be regarded a greeting towards Tonight, and self-questioning One Song Glory portrays touching passion that could soften the rock heart. And you can see the moving scene throughout the show. The common issue for everyone like love, support and care remain even if they behave so differently or anti-traditionally. The stuff that seems almost two different peaks mixed perfectly in the musical elements. All together it shakes the tenderest part of our heart.
Though performing Season of Love on stage is hardly an attractive start and even made me suspicious that movie may have ruined the catching and avant-grade mood, fortunately the portray of Rent released me. The whole adaptation is somehow faithful to the stage version with some changes in the latter part (it seems a tradition that they change some clues in act 2 from Chicago, Phantom to now Rent). The soul of Larsons lesson remains, for which the changes in decoration dont affect the movie so adversely. Anyway, we couldnt expect a revival of the abstract vision on screen even though it fascinates on stage but doesnt work for movie. Actually, it is natural to abandon some dialogue-type songs. Besides, some numbers early in the movie give us a wonderful sample to do a musical movie: how to maintain make it suitable on screen without missing its inherence. Take the number Rent as an example, the rock concert-style montage of streets, buildings in East Village and the bohemians protection of eviction is really a good interpretation to express their anger and value within the songs. Wise flashback in One Song Glory helps to build up Rogers character in a more vivid way. Cunning lighting the candle scene, warm life support, Ill cover you and etc all indicate the wisdom from the creative team. The rest parts are similar to the stage version, which may be not so fresh (as some said it is too conservative) but serve the movie quite well. It is the latter part that is a little disappointing. Right from silent conflict between Roger and Mimi, it falls into cliché of some soap MTV sometimes. Without You as the touching turning point in the stage version is translated as a light interlude. The meaningful breaking up, that implies complicated feeling hidden in the mind and in which Larson also achieve the depth of Puccinis masterpiece, is simplified sharply. In the movie, Rogers motivation is explained as Mimis falling back on drug again. This also affects What you own, in which the roles just wonder around without given a clue from the previous scene. As a result the section is little more than scenery footage of Santa Fe. Even though the final part gets to the lesson again, however, the loss can hardly regain. After considering the shining point and drawback, one conclusion, as members of creative team for the movie version, director Chris Columbus and screenplay Stephen Chbosky writer have shown their respect towards Larson. All their jobs are somehow good as for a movie.
Having most the original cast of the show, who are also the soul for the lessons, in the movie version is what all rent heads have to be grateful for most. After seeing the somehow under qualified cast in phantom, present of six majors from the opening cast guarantee a wonderful performance for the movie, though some may complain about lack of novelty. Those who have enjoyed the show in 1996 could see how could performers improve in ten years. Adam Pascal, defining Roger to a high degree in the opening show, surprises us again with his incredible energy in the movie. He could be heart-breaking since One Song Glory begins, in I should Tell You. His control over infirm tongue improves so much that he could express Rogers weak side much better, which brings more to the character. Above all, he has done a wonderful job suitable for the movie. As an actor on stage, his expression isnt over-embellished at all. Those details like his affection towards Mimi in Out Tonight, which he lacked in stage version, is wonderfully achieved. As a result, the character becomes incredibly lifelike. Rosario Dawson serves well as a non-original Mimi: sexy, full of livingness and passion, a wonderful voice, too. Only some details will sell her weakness (which doesnt matter that much), such as a little tame Out Tonight. But the flavorless Without You really is a bug, which prevents her Mimi becoming great. Anthony Rapps Mark couldnt serve as a narrator since it is in the movie, so his main task is restricted in the role himself, the one without much conflict and plot. He is fine except some over-dramatic movements that dont matter a lot since in singing scene. The gay couple by Jesse L. Martin and Wilson Jermaine Heredia heat up more during the years, Ill Cover You and Angles death do more than just move you into tears. Their love and support is the fireplace for all in a room without heat. Idina Menzel is still the passionate Maureen ever. Tracie Thoms catches me even though she is not from the stage version, ample tension from her voice doesnt fade a little when facing the forceful Idina. Take Me or Leave Me present flame within their impetuous heart and makes a clear definition of their unruly attitude and echoes La vie Bohemian in the earlier part. The cast-director is really appreciative for he chooses what is right for the role other than those choices for commercial purpose in recent production. And his job is a guarantee of the performance indeed.
The city is captured true life as it ought to be in a movie: well-revived East Village, disordered rooms is vivid. As for costume there is limited room for innovation. Following the style of the stage version definitely splits the difference. Maybe Rogers hair seems too conservative and traditional for a former rock-star. Thanks to Stephen Goldblatt, the cinematographer who understands the lesson heart and soul, those scenes interpret the theme of the abstract set on stage perfectly.
Among the wave of musical movies, Rent is no doubt an outstanding piece. What it presents is much more than fun in pieces like phantom. I dont deny that Rent gains nothing like Oscar or Globe. But these facts didnt kill the movie, or the show. Anyway, awards arent almighty God. In a winter evening, when we are moved by the story, passionate about the score and understand what is hidden between the lines, what are these awards for?
Rent is getting ready to open at the Prince Of Wales Theatre in the West End after embarking on a sell out nationwide tour. 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.' CHARACTERS ============ 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. THE SONGS ========== 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! THE CAST ========= 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. ADAM RICKITT ------------- 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 ------------- 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. NEIL COUPERTHWAITE ------------------- 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 KURUP ------------ 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. WARNING ======== 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? =============================== The
Prince Of Wales Theatre from 4 December until 26th January. BOOKING ======== www.ticketmaster.co.uk SPECIAL OFFER ================= 1)If you book before 7 December you can take advantage of a 2 for 1 offer. Visit- www.whatsonstage.com for more details. *************UPDATE********************* 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. Glenn