Thursday, 9 November 2017

“Rent” by Kristian Thomas Company
Springfield Hall, Sandiacre.
The musical is loosely based on the Puccini opera “La Boheme”. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City's East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
Kristian Thomas Company are one of the most local prolific theatre companies around at the moment, with a very high standard of productivity, and this production does not fall below the standards I’ve seen in the past and have come to expect.
They boast a fluid group of cast members which means that they can have the pick of their members to match the varied roles in the varied productions they perform.
The musical, for those who have never seen it before, feature some very charismatic roles.
Mimi the erotic dancer and Roger’s girlfriend, both have HIV and Mark, who also acts as the narrator of the play as well as being Roger’s flat mate are the main characters but the support roles are just as fascinating character wise.
Maureen, a performance artist and ex-girlfriend of Mark’s, and Joanne, the woman that Maureen left Mark for, are lovers and are fiery, as highlighted in their duet “The Tango Maureen”.
And then there’s Angel, the drag queen who has AIDS and is Tom Collins’ lover.
Benny, the yuppie landlord who has really fell on his feet who used to be where Mark and Roger once was.
Everything about this musical was spot on, apart from the sound in places. that's not anyone's fault as the venue has a high ceiling where some of the sounds can be lost. Nothing you can do about that, and having been to a few music gigs there, you recognise that this is something that will always be a minor problem. That aside the sound was as perfect as you're going to get thanks to the talented Harry Greatorex.
The harmonies were gorgeous and the four piece band, which sounded more like an orchestra created a beautiful backing to this talented bunch of vocalists. Tom Bond as musical director really brought the best out of the foursome.Dave Adey on keyboards, Tom on drums, Jeff Widdowson on bass and Rob Upton on guitar.
The musical score is ballsy and has some memorable songs, especially the wonderful “Seasons Of Love”, plus “I’ll Cover You”, “I Should Tell You”, the seductive “Light My Candle”, “Take Me Or Leave Me”, “Your Eyes” and of course the title track, “Rent”.
The setting was different with the action being played out on a catwalk stage so that the audience were on three sides, making you feel like you were part of the ensemble. A setting that worked so well for this story.
The whole staging was also a lot sexier than any production I'd seen, but not in a sleazy way, which it could have done taking into account that some of the scenes were in meant to have been set in exotic dance clubs.
Let's talk choreography!
Kristian Cunningham, who also produced this show, created some new and exciting choreography here. The section with the row of chairs was wonderful and looked great, and I imagine more complicated than we give credit for. Everything about the innovative dance sections was exciting to watch and I sat there with my mouth open in awe. The energy put in by every one took your breath away.
Director Alysha Gomes kept this "rock opera" style musical incredibly fresh, and although the musical is a bit longer than some, time didn't stand still as the pace left no time to even glance at a watch. It was like Alysha had covered the musical in varnish it appeared fresh and exciting, and I've seen it several times.
The lighting (Stephen Greatorex) was really impressive and set the mood for every part of the musical perfectly.
What a cast!
Benito Preite (Mark) put in an emotional performance, playing his character with great eagerness and zest, all the while keeping his audience in the loop with what was happening in the timeline.
Tom Simpson (Roger) has a wonderful rock voice and again is charismatic to watch on stage.
Beth Denham (Mimi) turned up the sex appeal with her double entendre performance of "Light My Candle" as well s bringing a tear to the eye in Act Two.
Andrew Buxton (Tom Collins) is another actor with a great voice, full of grit and soul, and again in Act Two, his acting brought about many a moist eye I noticed.
Jack Draper (Benny) turned bully boy yuppie in "Rent" but showed a more compassionate side in the second act. Another solid performance from Jack, who seems to change his acting style from one show to the next, showing what a versatile actor he is.
The roles of Maureen and Joanne are played by Shannon O'Donnell and Hannah Eve Brent and Georgie Bond and Anna Cousins for different performances. All four actors are so talented and have such wonderfully powerful voices that you will love whichever pairing you get to see.
Lucas Young (Angel) is one of those actors who can do everything. Not only does he show off some impressive gymnastics but some eye watering dance moves as Angel. He plays percussion and there's no way I'm not going to mention just how good he looks in those red boots. The man has dancers legs and he showcases them in this role.
A wonderful ensemble and supporting cast made up of newcomers and faces we've seen and loved in other shows over the years, and which we always look forward to seeing.
A shame not more people turned out for this particular piece of theatre because they would have experienced a real treat, but there's still time.
“Rent” is on at Springfield Hall until Saturday 11 November 2017

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