Twenty years after making its theatre debut, the rock musical Rent is once again touring the UK. We were lucky enough to catch Bruce Guthrie’s production at the Malvern Theatre before Christmas; the tour stops at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham between 11th and 15th April and it was so brilliant, we’re going again!
We won’t spoil the plot as it’s definitely worth buying tickets but for context, Rent, inspired by Puccini’s opera La Boheme, tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to make a living in bohemian New York.
The star studded cast includes Lucie Jones (the Welsh girl who was voted off X Factor far too early a few years ago and this year’s Eurovision entry) who deserves a solid douze points for her care free portrayal of the chaotic Maureen, Layton Williams (Bad Education) who fabulously struts, pirouettes and splits his way across the stage in killer heels as Angel, and Ryan O’Gorman who brilliantly conveys Collins inner turmoil with his deep, rich vocals.
For me though, it is Philippa Stefani who steals the show as the troubled Mimi. She pours so much raw emotion into her performance that she appeared genuinely drained during the curtain call, and leaving the theatre, there really wasn’t a dry eye in the house (think Take That splitting up, the first time around).
Unusually, even the ensemble are given a chance to shine; during “Seasons of Love” their solos demonstrate that talent runs deep within the cast. They are also incredibly agile, singing full pelt whilst flinging themselves around the steep scaffolding and rusty fire escapes of the city block set.
Jonathan Larson, who created the musical, tragically died on the morning of its off-Broadway preview but the messages he conveyed remain relevant. His work celebrates the lives of friends and addicts afflicted with HIV/AIDS, yet living their lives to their fullest. In an interview, he said “in these dangerous times, where it seems that the world is ripping apart at the seams, we all can learn how to survive from those who stare death squarely in the face every day and [we] should reach out to each other and bond as a community, rather than hide from the terrors of life at the end of the millennium.” Given recent events, I can’t help but feel the poignancy of his message.
If you get the chance to see this musical, you absolutely should. It’s simultaneously gut wrenching and defiant, yet the young cast’s energy will leave you with a warm heart, a salty, wet face and an overwhelming desire to love, laugh and spread kindness in the world…just be sure to take a tissue!
The Everyman Theatre is currently offering 16-25 year olds discounted tickets for the Tuesday and Wednesday shows for only £15 by quoting “LOVE” when booking.