Drugs, rock music, love and paying the Rent come together in perfect harmony at Greenwich Theatre (From News Shopper)
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Drugs, rock music, love and paying the Rent come together in perfect harmony at Greenwich Theatre
Drug abuse, youthful ambition and falling in love collide to form an intoxicating cocktail in the exhilarating musical Rent at Greenwich Theatre.
I’d gone along to the Tardis-like venue on Wednesday night to see the modern classic about a group of impoverished young artists.
A woman behind says “I love the staging” and she’s right, David Shields’ design is fantastic - a pyramid of stairs to apartment windows, and the live band at the heart of it all.
Rent is a rock musical based on the book and lyrics of Jonathan Larson, his interpretation of Puccini’s La Bohème.
But instead of Paris in the 1840s, we follow a group of bohemians in New York in the 1990s, falling in love and struggling to pay the rent.
The soundtrack and dialogue is vibrant and humorous, and I loved the mix of genres such as tango, jazz and rock.
But it is of course the cast who steal the show - their energy and infectious enthusiasm light up the stage.
A cast of 28 provide the mix of sassy dancers, drug addicts and intellectuals who tell this story. Instead of looking overcrowded, the exciting choreography by Richard Jones is clever as even anarchic stage invasions look good.
It’s ironic these destitute activists of the 90s actually look quite hip today as the grunge-look sees its revival.
Amongst a cast of strong leads and chorus, stand-out performances came from Stephanie Fearon as Mimi (she adds an electricity to the stage), and Gary Wood as the flamboyant and charismatic Angel.
My personal highlight is Zoe Birkett as Maureen Johnson.
Her performance of the one-woman protest play, about a cow living in cyberspace, had me crying with laughter.
However, the dark problems of drug addiction and the spread of AIDS are at the core of this play.
In this production of Rent, I think the balance between emphasising the joyful ambition of these artists, and the bleak reality of drug-taking, leans more towards an optimistic outlook.
It doesn’t glamourise drugs or ignore the consequences, as these moments are still movingly touched upon.
I think it leaves a sense of hope, with life triumphing in the end, and one that is universally translated.
The climax saw a well-deserved, thunderous applause as the audience got to their feet and celebrated with the cast as they sang Seasons of Love.
Rent runs at Greenwich Theatre until September 16.
For bookings visit greenwichtheatre.org.uk