Devastating. Uplifting. Beautiful.
There are so many adjectives I could use to describe this production of Rent at the Nottingham Playhouse. The standing ovation at the end said it all.
Written by Jonathan Larson twenty years ago, this is the story of impoverished young artists living in New York during the eighties. At the height of the AIDS epidemic the artists deal not only with social change and a belief in the bohemian life, but with the very real devastation caused by a virulent disease that left few untouched in that era.
The iconic music is stunning, and the actors in Bruce Guthrie’s production do justice to every lyric. Billy Cullum, playing Mark Cohen, leads the way with his powerful, clear voice, narrating their way through the story. Ross Hunter, playing Mark’s roommate Roger Davis, plays the part of damaged musician beautifully, and his scenes with struggling drug addict Mimi, played by understudy Christina Modestou, are absolutely beautifully heart-breaking. When Mimi sings “Goodbye Love”, your heart breaks for the young woman desperate to keep living.
The love story between Tom Collins, played by Ryan O’Gorman, and Angel, played by Layton Williams, steals the show. Indeed, Williams’ acrobatics and dance numbers keep the audience riveted. They both have HIV, and the beauty of their love is part of what drives the story forward. The concept of measuring life in love rather than success or time is born of their brief, tragic, love story. When Angel takes the stage for the final time, there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.
One of the incredibly powerful songs is performed by Lucie Jones and Shanay Holmes, playing eclectic artist Maureen Jones and lawyer Joanne Jefferson, respectively. The song “Take Me or Leave Me” is sung so powerfully by the two women the theatre is filled with their angst and desire. The choreography is tight, the secondary roles are sung just as well as the primary roles, and the setting is perfectly handled. There wasn’t a single misstep throughout, the sign of a brilliant, professional cast of actors.
Rent is playing at the Nottingham Playhouse until May 20th. If you’ve already seen it, take the time to see it again. If you haven’t seen it, don’t miss out on one of the best shows of the last century.
Rent is at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 20 May 2017.