RENT - Dynamik Theatre

"RENT," the ground-breaking rock musical by Jonathan Larson, pulsates with raw emotion and unyielding passion as it unravels the lives of a group of struggling artists in New York City's East Village during the late 1980s. Against the backdrop of a city plagued by poverty and disease, Larson weaves a poignant tapestry of love, friendship, and the relentless pursuit of dreams. Through its infectious score and fiercely authentic characters, "RENT" boldly confronts societal taboos and celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

I will admit to not having seen a production of “RENT” before, but was of course familiar with the many iconic songs from the show, including Seasons of Love and Take Me Or Leave Me.  The full company at Dynamik Theatre provided a powerhouse production with some incredible vocal performances throughout the night which really elevated the show. 

We meet Mark (Aaron Gibson), a wannabe film maker and Roger (Jack Higgins) a wannabe song writer who live together in New York City.  Mark acts as a narrator for the show breaking the fourth wall on many occasions.  Gibson, as Mark, was able to provide a very strong, confident performance, together with an authentic American accent.  As with every cast member, the vocals were also strong.  Higgins, as Roger, stood out for me as the strongest of the voices with a raspy, rock element to his voice that suited the style of music so well, a particular highlight being ‘Without You’ a duet shared with Mimi (Yasmeen Shaaban) which was so beautifully performed by both.  Shaaban totally immersed herself into the role of Mimi, blending her flirty nature, with the torment of love and life bought to a head during Act 2 where the range of emotions displayed was sensational.

Another stand out performer for me was Jaii Andrew who played Angel. With a fierce nature and loving personality, Andrew was able to portray the character as she was meant to be seen. Another fantastic vocal performance matched well with Collins (Ed Blann) as the couple navigated through life together before Angel’s demise which was also played out so poignantly, leaving me having to wipe away a tear.  Steph Westwood as Maureen and Ellie Creedon as Joanne played the ‘on/off’ couple well. Obviously polar opposites, the pair dealt with Maureen’s wild child side, against Joanne’s strait-laced persona, building to the fantastic duet ‘Take Me or Leave Me’ which the pair performed with gusto.

The show can be quite a hard watch in places, and I did find myself wondering about the hap-hazard nature of the script.  Larson's work often focused on social issues and the struggles of young artists.  "RENT," which premiered in 1996, was a modern adaptation of Puccini's opera "La Bohème" during the HIV/AIDS crisis and received widespread acclaim, earning Larson multiple awards posthumously.  I can totally understand why theatre groups choose to stage this show as the legacy it holds is special to so many people.

The full company at Dynamik Theatre work so well together and there is a real family vibe that radiates off the stage.  ‘Seasons of Love’ was another particular highlight as the opening of Act 2, with Annabel Pilcher taking charge of hitting the high notes which she absolutely nailed.  Many of the ensemble play multiple characters throughout and their commitment to the show shines through. 

The band, under the musical direction of Callum Thompson were fantastic at producing a wonderful rock sound throughout, however at times it was slightly too loud and certain vocals were missed.  There were also times when the cast microphones were a little too quiet, but nothing that upping the volume slightly wouldn’t fix.

Artistic Director Jamie Poxon has created another hit with Dynamik Theatre, and it was a pleasure to be invited. 

This show was reviewed on the 22nd February 2024 and runs at Cobham Theatre, Bromsgrove until the 24th February 2024.  Tickets available here: Whats On | Dynamik Theatre

Review written by Emma Rowley


Photo credit: David Fawbert

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