Dates: 7 - 11 September 2004
: The Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts

Reviewer: John Jane







Music and Lyrics by Jonathon Larson
Directed by Michael Greif

Ava is Maureen

I should start by saying that if you among those who are traditional theatre goers, Rent may just not be for you.

Rent is Jonathon Larson’s rock musical adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera La Bohéme, set in the Latin Quarter of Paris. As with the original, Larson’s version deals with some disturbing issues without apology. This ode to AIDS, homelessness and homosexuality as experienced through sick, young people, gained extra focus when the author died suddenly just before its New York opening.

Rent explodes with the energy, exuberance and the raw talent that this young company brings to the stage. The New York model of casting unknown, eager hopefuls worked well here; cast members worked hard to draw the audience into the show’s complex themes. Unfortunately, Larson’s storyline is almost impossible to follow. The narrative relies on the song’s complicated lyrics, which at times were imperceptible due to poor mixing and heavy-handed musical direction.

Rent begins on Christmas eve in an industrial loft, occupied, pretty much rent-free by Mark (Andy Meeks) who takes on the incidental narration, and Roger, (Dan Rosenbaum) a self-pitying musician, attempting to write his own swan song.

Through a series of telephone calls and "bad connections", the story follows Mark and the stormy relationships of three couples, one heterosexual, one lesbian and one homosexual. (One half of which comprises of Angel, a trannie who doesn’t look out of place in a Santa Claus outfit - Rent is that kind of show)





The on stage performance was largely an ensemble effort with no real stand-outs. Though, Tallia Brinson, as Mimi Marquez, an exotic dancer, may be worthy of special praise. She had arguably the most difficult role in Rent, delivering Larson’s cliched platitudes about “seizing the day”. Her smoldering performance of ‘Out Tonight’, a tough, raw-edged rock song, was combined with the raunchiest choreography likely seen on The Centre's stage.

Mimi performs ‘Out Tonight’

The shorter second act encompasses the whole year up to the following Christmas Eve. It opens with the entire company coming together in ‘Seasons of Love’, one of Rent’s best songs. The song is reprised in the show’s most poignant moment, mid-way through the second act, when Angel dies of AIDS.

When first seeing Paul Clay’s untidy set design with extension chords and cheap portable furniture strewn about the stage floor, it appeared to be ‘under construction’. However, it fitted perfectly with the gloomy plight of Rent’s characters.

Some of the songs were indeed memorable, some easy to forget. If you are looking for musical theatre with attitude - check out Rent! But you might just want to leave your grandmother behind.

© 2004, John Jane