BWW Review: RENT at Playhouse Theatre Glen Eden

BWW Review: RENT at Playhouse Theatre Glen Eden

Playhouse Theatre's production of RENT had audiences on their feet for the first two performances; the standing ovations testament to the emotional impact and excellent delivery of this much loved show.

RENT is based on Puccini's opera 'La Boheme' with its characters, mostly similar in name and nature, transferred into a 1990's backdrop of impoverished artists struggling to make their way. The location is New York City's East Village and in the shadows of HIV/AIDS. Character Roger's bitter-sweet evocative song 'Musetta's Waltz' is a tangible reminder of the story's origins throughout the show.

Johnathan Larsen, playwright, composer and lyricist of RENT tragically died before the show opened on Off-Broadway in 1996. Within a few weeks, it moved to Broadway where it played for 12 years.

Much of the appeal of this show is that it gets messy. There is no subtlety amongst the marginalised young naive characters who are living their dream against the grain of all things 'Big Apple'. Their characters are true-to-life emotionally charged idealists who are confronted with the unexpected challenges of death. The raw messiness, combined with the rock-era song styles that are merged with this character-driven story has a wildly affecting success.

The story centres on Mark (Sean MacFarlane) who serves as Rent's unofficial narrator. His roommate and best friend Roger (Keith Marr) is a wannabe rocker still struggling to move past his girlfriend's suicide and refuses the charms of neighbour Mimi,(Kristin Paulse) an exotic dancer who wouldn't mind lighting his candle; that's if she can keep her own drug-influenced demons at bay.
BWW Review: RENT at Playhouse Theatre Glen Eden
Mark's ex-girlfriend Maureen (Laura Rollinson), an over-the-top performance artist, has taken up with Joanne (Kirsten Craggs), an attorney not quite at home, 'yet' among the artsy set. Also very much involved is Mark and Roger's former roommate Collins (Sam Iosefo), a philosophical academic who falls under the spell, of the aptly named Angel (Fin Bowen), who happens to be dying of AIDS. Ex-flatmate Benny (Karlo Valdez) has crossed over to the bourgeois side and has become their landlord.

The cast is a highly skilled and engaging collective talent of charismatic performers.
Director Kit Haines and his team have recreated the 1990's with the set, lights (love the shadow effects) costuming and dynamic choreography (Claire Verity Rowley).

The music requires the singers to be unrestrained and the cast sing with a remarkable flexibility and strength. Accolades also to Musical Directors and Band.

It is very difficult to seek out standouts; it's like looking for the sensational amongst the sensational so I used my reliable measure of what's in my head first thing in the morning. I awoke with Fin Bowen's rendition of "Today For You" in my head. He makes an unexpected entrance and with a song'n'dance/narrative routine that left me and 'significant other stunned by its brilliance. I have not come across Fin before but I hope to see him on stage again soon.

While I'm reflecting, Sam Iosefo's emotion complete with tears 'got me', Keith Marr and "One Song Glory' and Kirstin Craggs; can that girl sing!
Oh and Laura Rollinson's 'Over the Moon' needs a mention amongst the plethora of offerings that you'll love.
I haven't even mentioned the signature song "Seasons of Love". This song has been criticised for appearing too often in Act 2 but I couldn't get enough of it, not the way this cast deliver it.

This 1996 show highlights the plight of issues that are no longer so relevant with AIDS/HIV no longer the death sentence that it once was and LGBTQ rights have making advances. However, the underlying themes that are the foundation of this show are timeless.

Rent challenges us to find the life, the joy and the love whilst facing the difficult situations; poverty, rejection and death before our time. We are all terminal after all so making the most no matter what should not be a choice but a conviction.


22nd September - 6th October
15 Glendale Road
Glen Eden
Not suitable for children under 13

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From This Author Monica Moore

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