Touring – reviewed at Malvern Theatres
St James Theatre London – 8 December 2016-28 January 2017
When you think of the musical, Rent, written by Jonathan Larson, Seasons of Love springs to mind, immediately. However, the hard-hitting and modern-styled musical is packed with a range of musical numbers which are filled with angst, heart and impact. Add to that a strong set of characters who each have their own complex story to tell, and this is a musical de force.
From the beginning, the tone was set with the powerful first ensemble number ‘Rent’ which had all the emphasis and passion the Lyricist had asked of them, coupled with stunning choreography. The audience were able to see the set prior to the start of the show, which is very common place these days, and it was clear that nothing had been overlooked as it gave the bohemian, slum feel that enriches the story and the characters plight in their struggle with addiction, drugs, illness and poverty.
The staging was quite intricate. Draw bridges were used to alter the huge main scaffold areas playing spaces creating various rooms and platforms. A detachable metal, fire exit-style staircase was also used to great effect in Mimi’s (Philippa Stefani) song ‘Out Tonight’ where members of the cast moved it around while she was in full flow. La Vie Boheme was again a fine number, where the table was maneuvered around on casters to create different effects and working areas on the stage.
The first character impact for us was Angel’s (Layton Williams) rendition of ‘Today 4 U’. His overall athleticism was mind blowing… to culminate in a back flip off the stage in high heels, a move ‘Max Whitlock’ would be proud of, topped a musical number that just got better and better. The relationship that develops between Tom Collins (Ryan O’Gorman) and Angel is an essential storyline and culminates in an emotional act two. Mark Cohen (Joshua Dever) was the Narrator, and all round steady influence throughout, helping the audience follow the story through his eyes at it unfolded with ease. His number with Joanne (Shanay Holmes) ‘Tango: Maureen’ was energetic and very well received by all. Maureen (Lucie Jones) was as sassy as ever and had a believable chemistry with Joanne.
Unlucky in love Benny (Javar La’Trail Parker), played his part well and effortlessly singing ‘You’ll See’ helped the audience firstly, dislike and resent him a little, but later he showed his better nature and endeared the audience towards him. Roger (Ross Hunter) and Mimi’s relationship built and built, gaining momentum, like Trump’s presidential campaign, throughout the show culminating in a lovely rendition of ‘Your Eyes’ which moved the audience and characters alike. Early songs ‘light my candle’ and ‘another day’ were great to watch as our two characters started to enhance their relationship. As mentioned before, Mimi showed her nerve, as she climbed over scaffold and surfed the moving staircase whilst singing ‘out tonight’.
If you’re looking for a rollercoaster of a show with broad and boundary pushing storylines, this will make you laugh, cry and think until you can think no more. Enjoy!
Reviewed by Guest Reviewers: Cy Wooldridge and Garry McWilliams