Saturday, 15 February 2014

RENT IN CONCERT (UK Tour) Review February 2014

When you consider concert staging of musicals, you come to expect a reduced version of the original full-scale production, usually commemorating an anniversary and often for a similar (and of course, more expensive) price bracket. Les Misérables have done it twice – at the Royal Albert Hall and the O2 Arena for their 10th and 25th anniversary and have done so on a very grand and elaborate scale. For other musicals however, even outstanding performances can perhaps leave you a little underwhelmed with lack of action or set. Rent lends itself particularly well to the genre, as there was never much there to begin with… Traditionally performed with very little in the way of set, this concert production very much keeps the feel of an original production.

This is the 20th Anniversary celebration of Rent, which opened on Broadway in 1996… the initial reading and workshop versions of which came in 1993 and 1994 – hence the anniversary now as opposed to 2016. Date logistics aside, any reason to riff up the incredible score by Jonathan Larson is valid. We should probably expect another tour in 2016 and judging by audience reaction it would be welcomed back with open arms… and plenty of tissues.

Kerry Ellis as Mimi

Emotion was rife, both on stage and off as an incredible cast came together to do the piece true justice. Headlining the cast, Kerry Ellis stars as Mimi. With previous roles including Meat in We Will Rock You, Elphaba in Wicked and Nancy in Oliver, Ellis is used to playing the gutsy and feisty female. Exploring the playful side of Mimi early on and later the frail, Ellis takes us on a believable journey and it's nice to see her ability to perform a much less glamorous role.

Ian Stroughair as Angel

Mykal Rand is a sensation as Collins, his I’ll Cover You reprise brings the evening to a standstill. Joined by Ian Stroughair as Angel, the pair create a true relationship that leaves the heart aching. Rory Taylor surprises as Roger, the former ITV Superstar contestant excels and his One Song Glory is particularly impressive. There's a sweet connection between Taylor and Ellis in Light My Candle. Paul Ayres makes a great Mark - a character who really just guides the story, but is brought to life with charm.

Rory Taylor as Roger

Joanne (Lisa-Marie Holmes) & Maureen (Ruthie Stephens) are both powerhouses and raise the roof with their playfully fierce Take Me Or Leave Me. The lesser seen of the principals, Kenny Thompson completes the cast as Benny and gives the part enough to leave a strong lasting impression.

Seasons Of Love is one of the reasons you love this show, the opening song of the second act feels like the climax to the show and is later featured appropriately as an encore. It is here where Beth Humphreys and Tim Prottey-Jones get their moment in the spotlight – receiving rapturous reactions to their solos.

There are perhaps slight sound issues, it is almost too rock concert-like at times where music is much louder than vocal but it's hardly concerning. A combination of impeccable casting and a very strong band - in all, this concert version of Rent is a triumph.

Cast List: Kerry Ellis, Ruthie Stephens, Rory Taylor, Paul Ayres, Ian Stroughair, Mykal Rand, Kenny Thompson, Lisa-Marie Holmes, David Hinton-Gale, Beth Humphreys, Tim Prottey-Jones, Joel Harper-Jackson, Kate England

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