Rent April 2019
NODA East Review
RENT – SCHOOL EDITION
Performed by Young Gen at The Cramphorn Theatre Chelmsford
3rd May 2019
Director – Jeremy Tustin;
Musical Director – Bryan Cass
Author: Christine Davidson
Young Gen never fails to disappoint and last night we were both blown away by the production of Rent. The superb cast gave the audience a performance full of energy and passion with the maturity of an adult company. Indeed we forgot that some of these young actors were less than nineteen years of age. This was a very professional production and each of the cast, whether ensemble or lead roles gave their all. Each and every actor on the stage was in character and never once did the action falter.
Based on the opera La Bohème, Rent portrays Bohemian New York in the nineties and the lives of the people who live in the East Village Squat. Here we have eight lead roles, each with a story to tell and narrated by the excellent Dan Hall as Mark, who from the beginning was eloquent, versatile and engaging, he kept us riveted with his energetic narrative from start to finish. From the opening number ‘Seasons of Love’ the standard of the singing was incredible and full marks to Director Jeremy Tustin, Assistant Director Jill Burtenshaw and Musical Director Bryan Cass, for the amount of hard work that had been achieved for this show. Their vision, creativity and amazing choreography brought together a stunning production.
We meet first an aspiring rock musician Roger (Matt Hedges), who wants to write one great song before he dies and falls in love with a club dancer. Their romance is doomed from the start. Roger gave an edgy, extraordinary performance, full of angst and inner turmoil. His love Mimi (Livi Khattar) was amazing as the sexy, damaged dancer; their intense relationship was shown throughout. Livi is a star of the future. I have seen her perform in three shows now and each time she has grown both as an actor and singer; she is stunning to watch.
The second couple are Mark’s ex-girlfriend, performance artiste Maureen (Virginia Hampson) who is now with Joanne (Phoebe Walsh). Their relationship was well portrayed through the duet ‘Take Me or Leave Me’ and both these ladies were confident with beautiful vocals.
Another great pairing were Collins (Jordan Webster) and his lover, drag queen Angel (Paul French). Wow what I can say about the superb Paul, he just blew me away with his character and how he kept up on those huge high heels without falling over I will never know. When he did the splits the audience gasped and applauded. Paul played the character with such charm, never once going over the top and I believed in him implicitly. The love between him and Collins showed so well, they were very well cast. I loved the number ‘I’ll Cover You’ and their last scene together was incredibly moving.
Jack Gunn played the role of landlord Benny who wants to evict his former friends. This role is a hard one to fulfil as the character needs to be harsh and unlikeable but Jack managed to make this role his own.
There were excellent intense supporting performances by the cast all the way through the show. The set was simple scaffolding with an upper level reached by a staircase on each side, with the orchestra underneath giving the cast ample opportunity to use the stage well. Scene changes made use of just two tables and a chair which were moved by the cast. The choreography for each scene was crafted incredibly well on this small stage. I also have to commend the dance number for ‘Tango Maureen’, where every couple danced in complete unison. Costumes were great especially for Mimi and Maureen!
Professional lighting and sound was spot on and it was great to hear all the songs without the orchestra drowning them out. Bryan Cass and his team as usual did a sterling job.
What a powerful, energetic and entertaining show which yet again Young Gen should be totally proud of. Congratulations.
NODA East, District 8