Goodwood Institute, Wed 31 Aug
Marie Clark Musical Theatre Company has brought a welcome raw intensity to Adelaide with their latest production of RENT. Led by Mark Stefanoff as Director/Vocal Coach, Nina Richards as Assistant Director/Choreographer and Ben Stefanoff as Musical Director, this production makes some bold moves that generally pay off. The energy, courage and extreme emotions within Rent are all accentuated by the talented cast, orchestra and crew.
The rock musical is loosely based on the opera La Bohéme by Puccini and set in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of the Bohemian Alphabet City with the increased prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The story follows a group of young struggling artists who avoid paying rent, while learning to live every day as if it is their last and negotiate love (including all its baggage). With story, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, RENT’s creation also has a tragic story with Larson suddenly dying the night before the Off-Broadway premiere. RENT had an incredible 12 year run on Broadway until it closed in 2008.
The production team has cast an incredibly vibrant ensemble and leads. Damien Quick as the filmmaker, Mark, who hides behind his work was incredibly strong in this production with great vocals and a likable persona. As Mark is a more stable, detached character, Quick was very comfortable in his role, which was crucial from the beginning. As Mark’s housemate Roger, Anton Schrama encompasses the character perfectly. His physicality, accent and rock voice were spot on.
Jennifer Trijo as Mimi was flirty and sexy with powerful vocals, which were out on display in Out Tonight. Other powerful female vocalists, Fiona DeLaine and Sarah Whiteley as the couple Maureen and Joanne were both sensational. DeLaine was sufficiently peculiar in Over The Moon with the whole audience mooing and the emotions were amplified in the couples break up song Take Me Or Leave Me.
Director Mark Stefanoff also played Angel in the production demonstrating why he has previously won awards when he played this role interstate. Angus Birdseye as Collins and Ron Abelita as Benny also provided solid portrayals and impressive vocals.
The set is very wide with the removal of the curtains on both sides of the stage and apart from a few chairs, tables and props the set is fixed. This simplicity can be an effective concept, but for those that do not know the plot of RENT, watching this production may be hard to follow as there is not enough distinction made to establish where action is taking place. The choreography and stage movement is at times chaotic and distracting with too much going on, which is particularly detrimental during more sombre moments of the show. With courageous risks with set, movement and intensity of the acting and singing, there are going to be misses without a long time for refinement. The hits throughout the show were incredibly powerful though and the audience tonight went on their own high intensity emotional journey. Bring the tissues!
The costumes worked well, especially when the actors didn’t fiddle with them, the lighting usually effective and the sound will hopefully get there.
An excellent high intensity production that is definitely worth getting tickets to before it all sells out.
RENT continues at Goodwood Institute, at various times, until Sat 3 Sep.
Book at Marie Clark Musical Theatre on 8251 3926 or www.marieclark.asn.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.