Taking place in the 1990’s in East Village, New York, Rent follows a group of young bohemians trying to work their way through personal issues, doing so by finding each other. Cliché though it may sound, this rock-musical touches on so many issues leaving the audience reaching for tissues for both tears of sadness and of laughter. The cast of the 20th Anniversary tour contains no weak link with some – dare I say it – sounding better than the original Broadway cast.
There were a number of standout performances but one that left no dry eye in the house was that of Ryan O’Gorman’s (Tom Collins) ‘I’ll Cover You: Reprise’ which demonstrated his incredible vocals along with his sensational ability to connect with the audience. Another memorable character was Angel (played by Layton Williams) whose flips and tricks had us whooping and cheering her along, he flawlessly played a character that brought love and peace into a community where tensions were running high. The whole cast complimented one another with no one trying to outshine the other; the voices of Billy Cullum (Mark Cohen) and Ross Hunter (Roger Davis) together confirmed the perfect casting, with the tones of their voices sounding magnificent together. Billy Cullum also showed off his dancing skills alongside Jenny O’Leary, who stepped into Shannay Holmes’ shoes for the night to play Joanne, during the ‘Tango Maureen’. O’Leary’s performance, like the rest of the cast’s, was outstanding and her relationship with the feisty Maureen (Lucie Jones) kept the audience on the edge of their seats. Local girl Jones did a phenomenal job as Maureen and did not drop the high-energy performance once; even getting the audience to ‘moo’ with her. Jones could certainly give Idina Menzel a run for her money!
The set was simplistic, made of ladders and scaffolding, but this cannot to be faulted as it did not distract away from the actors’ passion for their characters. One such passionate performance came from Philippa Stefani (Mimi Marquez) whose version of ‘Out Tonight’ hit all the right notes, both literally and figuratively.
I could go on about how brilliant this performance was all day but I think the standing ovation from every audience member at the end of the show speaks for itself. Everything was spot on from the set, to the costumes, to the music, to the cast itself. The show is certainly worth the emotional roller-coaster you go through. Rent will be playing at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 8th April and it is definitely not to be missed.