Review: RENT at His Majesty's Theatre

Musical theatre classic graces Perth so you can see what the fuss is about.

By: May. 19, 2024
Review: RENT at His Majesty's Theatre
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RENT is a rightful touchstone of musical theatre. A rare example of a musical being set in the time it was shown, it shone light on people and lifestyles that people were often doing their best to avoid. It also features several iconic songs, and reimagined in 2024 for an Australian audience, RENT wants you to come and see why it is a major part of the musical theatre landscape.

Set in a rapidly gentrifying East Village of New York City with a cloud of HIV/AIDS sitting over the characters, RENT puts forth a rich tapestry of characters and situations. Noah Mullins as Mark, the film-maker (and narrator of the show) and Jerrod Smith as Mark’s roommate Roger serve as the focal point of the show, the two of them facing their own struggles. Mullins and Smith have excellent chemistry as friends and their struggles are relatable and draw your sympathy. Martha Berhane makes an outstanding Mimi, her character’s confidence and charisma translating truly onto this stage.

Joanne (Thndo) and Maureen (Calista Nelmes) is a coupling that comes across well, with Thndo’s Joanne proving the perfect foil for Nelme’s Maureen and her force. Tana Laga’aia as Benny is an excellent de facto villain, epitomising exactly the sort of person people from a rough neighbourhood despise. The passage of time between the show’s setting and today perhaps being no better illustrated in the guffaws from the audience when Benny offered to forego a years worth of rent. Nick Afoa as Tom Collins works splendidly, with the perfect blend of chaos and heart. Stealing the show as Angel is Carl De Villa, putting the perfect amount of everything into Angel and making their heartbreaking journey hit the audience harder than any of the other interwoven storylines.

Review: RENT at His Majesty's Theatre

Credit must absolutely go to director Shaun Rennie, who brings the cast together in a way that at times becomes even more than the some of their already impressive parts. Luca Dinardo’s choreography is simply stunning, and there are excellent dance numbers that use a lot of the cast without breaking the intimate feeling of the show. Dann Barber’s set design and Ella Butler’s costume design do a great deal to painting a unashamedly gritty picture of a late 80s/early 90s East Village.

The storyline of RENT is somewhat complex and becomes near impossible to follow sometimes, whilst at others what would otherwise be important points are one through quickly, all with characters that often make frustrating choices. This cast and crew have done a great deal to soften the blow of that, bringing the audience to give more sympathy and care for the characters than they might otherwise be entitled to. Whilst the storyline may be a bit much, there is simply no going past the fact that RENT is a classic of musical theatre, and when the show is so well put together as this one, you’d be a fool to miss it.

RENT is at His Majesty's Theatre Perth until May 25th when it moves to Canberra. Tickets and more information at RENT the Musical Australia.

Photos thanks to Pia Johnson Photography.


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