Going to see one’s favourite musical is often a gamble due to the risk of it being ruined by not living up to what high standards have already been set. I was certainly nervous for this reason, but at the same time very excited to be seeing RENT live for the first time. With music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, this rock opera, which was first performed in New York in 1994, is loosely based on La Bohéme by Puccini and documents the lives and struggles of a group of young artists.
Watching the movie adaptation when it first came out in 2005, which notably features most of the original cast, I instantly become enraptured and this is consequently my most watched and ultimately favourite musical. With no prior opportunity to see it performed live however, my hopes were extremely high. I am thoroughly pleased to express that my expectations were met and exceeded; the Epsom Players put on an overwhelmingly brilliant production that is so much more than amateur.
Due to the intimacy of the venue at the Charles Cryer Studio Theatre, it was imperative for the actors to envelop their respective characters. This was executed perfectly and every single member of the cast gave an arresting and heartfelt performance which drew the audience into the world of the play. The main actors particularly shone and were cast perfectly – I cannot praise anyone in particular as they gave equally outstanding performances and complimented each other extremely well.
In addition, the set was authentically bohemian and creatively designed by Michael Leopold with varying levels that enabled the choreography to flourish. It was altogether utterly engaging and transporting. Furthermore, to hear the fantastic music performed live by a talented band was a thrilling and continuously hair-raising experience, even more so when accompanied with the exceptional voices of the actors and ensemble. Every spectrum of emotion was conveyed effectively, evident by the audience’s reactions.
While humorous and provocative at times, there are many deeper and more serious messages being voiced particularly when closer attention is paid to the lyrics, and as a result the audience were taken on an emotional rollercoaster. This is further enhanced with scenes such as the Over the Moon protest and the funeral of one of the characters, as director Chris Malone deliberately and cleverly involves the audience in the action making the play even more engrossing. Reaching the finale, much of the audience were in tears and enthusiastically showed their appreciation with a complete standing ovation.
Overall, the production was sexy, entertaining and emotional!