By Lynne Watson
RENT is described as ‘a landmark rock opera, and a raw and riveting milestone in musical theatre’ and is CTC’s latest production following their successful run of Grease at Loughborough’s Town Hall.
Loosely based on Puccini’s opera La Boheme, Rent is set in New York’s gritty East Village and tells the story of a group of Bohemians struggling to live and pay their rent and measuring their lives in love these starving artists strive success and acceptance while enduring the obstacles of poverty, illness and at the time, the AIDS epidemic.
Written and composed by Jonathan Larson, himself a Bohemian artist, who sadly died before being able to witness the success of his work interestingly told the New York Times that the iconic show mirroring Puccini dealt with artistic freedom, friendship and love.
Rent is a hard hitting musical which when performed nowadays, albeit rarely, highlights the issues that are relevant today and CTC ensured the message hit home! Vocally, set, lighting and costume wise the production was first class and performed with energetic pace throughout, the opening numbers Tune Up and Rent were superb, however, Rent is more a sequence of scenes than a story which provides the opportunity for each of the main characters to showcase their skill.
Wannabe filmmaker Mark and musician Roger played by Tom Pinny and Ashley Bright were equally matched and Pinny acting as narrator couldn’t be faulted on his clear diction when singing as it is the lyrics that relate the action, ever dependable Ashley Bright gave his character real depth lamenting the suicide of his former lover but love beckons when Mimi, an HIV positive dancer, sung both with edge and sensitivity Lucy Brown knocks on his door and their Puccini inspired Light My Candle duet was hauntingly poignant.
Ex-girlfriend of Mark turned lesbian Maureen embarks on an affair with Joanne and Holly Easter (Maureen) brought the house down with her solo Take Me Or Leave Me while Eve Taylor gave an understated believable performance.
Artistic licence came into play with the addition of two new characters computer buff turned homosexual Collins immediately taken in hand by drag artist Angel, director Michael Gamble comfortably took over the role of Collins but the accolade of the night must go to Kristian Cunningham whose flamboyant performance gradually morphed into total despair as he succumbed to the ravages of AIDS, a mesmerising transformation.
Chorus numbers score highly in the show enthusiastically performed and together with the five strong excellent band, the whole talented company must be praised for delivering a difficult iconic show with an important message.