I have seen many different productions of Rent, both professional and amateur, in the past, including the movie, and it's definitely one of my favourite shows to go and watch for it's passionate and provoking story line. I was excited to see how the cast of Redcliffe Musical Theatre's production would approach the show and I have to say that they did not disappoint.
From the moment you walked into Theatre 102, which was the perfect venue to put on this production, I felt like I was transported back in time and living on New York's Lower East side along with Mark and Roger. The set was big and industrial and impoverished – everything a Rent set should be. Already knowing the story line I found it a great technique to leave the curtains open and allow the audience to get a feel for the set before the action started to allow us to immerse ourselves into the scene from the get go.
From the minute Mark (played by Jonathan Sweeper) walked out on stage with his camera and started telling his story I was captured. Every actor on that stage, including the ensemble, committed to their character 100% throughout the whole show and delivered some powerhouse performances worthy of any stage.
All the leads gave outstanding performances but for me special mention must go to Jesse Ainsworth (playing Roger), Zac Crisan (who played Angel) and Erickson Illustre (playing Tom) who stole a bit of piece of my heart as the show went on. Ainsworth's rendition of One Song Glory gave me goosebumps and I'll Cover You between Angel and Tom was a definite highlight of the show.
The relationships between all the characters were believable and there was genuine chemistry, compassion and maturity in their acting that meant you couldn't help but feel their emotions along with them. And, by the time we got to the I'll Cover You reprise I was sitting in the audience sobbing like a baby as I was overcome by emotion (as was the whole audience) – little word for the wise, if you go see this show pack tissues, you will need them.
Tying it all together was the musical direction of Helen Drew, and the amazing four piece band who we got to watch in action throughout the show. Having the band form part of the set simply added to the effect of a crowded New York City where creative artists are struggling to survive.
The lighting and costumes added to the story and the direction of Madeleine Johns gave the show a free-flowing more realistic feel, which really worked.
Do yourself a favour and go see this show before the season ends. It will make you think, it will make you cry but most of all it will remind you that there is "No day but today".
Review by Stacey Goodwin