Hunter Drama, Civic Playhouse, Newcastle
Ends November 4
THIS staging of the musical Rent, American composer Jonathan Larson’s reworking of the opera La Boheme, which sets the story of the problems faced by would-be artists and those around them in New York’s lower east side in the early 1990s (the time it was written), is certainly colourful and bright.
An engaging score of mainly rock songs tells the story, with a tribute to opera writer Giacomo Puccini’s score in a cafe-set number which uses music from the opera.
While I was impressed by the gloss director Daniel Stoddart gave to this staging, and could understand why the majority of the opening night audience gave it standing applause at the end, the needed darkness of parts of the story was largely absent. The darkness of the death of a gay young male who helped to lighten the often troubling circumstances of those around him was virtually absent and the characters seemed to ignore concerning things that happened. Still, the actors helped to get most of the audience on their side (or, in a couple of cases, against them). Dan Wilson’s struggling filmmaker clearly is concerned about what is happening to him; Amy Vee’s erotic dancer Mimi is determined to get what she wants; Luke Baker’s generous drag queen and street percussionist Angel is very likable; Marissa Sarocca’s bi-sexual performance artist Maureen is suitably flirtatious; and Nicholas Stabler’s landlord Benny is certainly the sort of person to avoid.