Published on February 21st, 2024 | by Chris O'Connor

Rent Musical Review (Melbourne Australia 2024)

Rent Musical Review (Melbourne Australia 2024) Chris O'Connor

Summary: If your day to day life seems a bit lacking in vibrancy and soul... make some space for Rent and bask in Bohemia.


Bohemian Beauty

Many years ago I worked in merchandise and one of my colleagues at the time lent me a copy of the Broadway cast performance of Rent. It was impressive to watch how well the stage performance translated to the filmed version. Later I watched the film version of Rent and I understand this may be blasphemous… but I preferred the musical styling of the film version (certain singers were more to my taste is what this boils down to). I think the story felt more relatable than many musicals because it essentially revolves around artists/bohemians and all that entails.

So… when the opportunity to see the local production on opening night arose… I took it (and I took my youngest with me).

The first thing that stood out to me was the set… somewhat familiar to the Broadway setup… yet also a bit different. It’s been a while since I’ve watched the Broadway recording, but I’m pretty sure the local set managed to fit more on the stage and as it turns out, used it extremely well to convey multiple locations and moods. The second thing that stood out and arguably more than the first… was the cast starting to make their way onto stage as people were still making their way to their seats. It’s an interesting effect as it gives a cross between the sense of looking into an enclosure as the animals go about their lives and also of almost being part of the same space the characters are in… as if they are on their side of a room and we are on the other.

I want to quickly mention a negative and one… curiosity I will call it. The negative is not specific to the production of Rent but is a general gripe (yes I’m a middle aged male… I gripe enough as it is… but I’m writing this anyway), audio mixes are generally too loud. Now this can be somewhat a matter of opinion, but there are aspects that are less “preference” related. A few points during the show I believe I noticed some clipping (for those who don’t know, this basically means that the audio input was too loud for the microphone and so it looses some of the information resulting in the audio “clipping” ie a portion just not being properly audible.) But more common was the mix between the music and the vocals. It’s possible that having had the privilege of sitting only about 6 rows from the stage (thank you for the seats!), the band was perceptibly louder than perhaps the balcony seats or further back in the stalls… but it meant I was sometimes unable to properly hear a lyric because the band was coming in over the top and blasting it out. The last element of volume being an issue is I don’t really like leaving a concert, production etc and having ringing in my ears. It’s not a deal breaker… I just need to remember to bring some discreet ear plugs in future.

The curiosity is in regards to Benny’s (played by Tana Laga’aia) accent. The show is set in New York and just about all the cast have what might be termed a Generican accent (at least that’s what we called it when I did a play set in New York many years ago). Benny however had a number of moments where their (I presume natural) accent sounded distinctly New Zealand. It’s not strictly an issue because the show kind of promotes the notion of a broad mix of people so whose to say Benny isn’t of New Zealand heritage… it just sounded notably different from the other performers.

Noah Mullins as Mark is our introduction to the story and does a great job of the part time pseudo narrator to the goings on (being a documentarian is a great excuse to talk through what’s going on).

Jerrod Smith gives the character Roger some serious brooding attitude and I think provides far more angst than other performances of the character. There seems to be a lot less fluff and cheer to him compared to both the Broadway and movie versions and I think in some ways that makes the character a bit more interesting.

Nick Afoa as Collins has some weighty moments on stage and was certainly able to justify my instinct to bring tissues.

Carl De Villa brings a lovely playfulness to Angel but most of all does a fantastic job of conveying just how apt a name the character has with all they try to do for others (as long as they aren’t a canine).

Martha Berhane’s Mimi, perhaps appropriately given the name of where they work, has a catlike quality to them. Slinking seductively in and around the set with ease.

For those who are familiar with the show… the question might be lingering “but what about Maureen”? Well just as the character is known for commanding the attention of everyone they are near… Calista Nelmes commands the stage when they perform the performance within a performance.

Final Thoughts?

Overall I am quite blown away by just how damn good our local (and international but performing local) talent are. Putting aside my nitpicking earlier… the entire cast are fantastic performers and some of the songs, when the chorus moments come about… magical! It’s a lovely, if emotionally up and down, story that hopefully reminds people (as the song says) there’s “no day but today”. Make the most of life, enjoy what you have while you can… and get along to see Rent to enjoy the impressive talent we have the great fortune to watch on our stages. I should also mention that my youngest was quite taken with a rather lovely jumper that one of the ensemble was wearing… a big fluffy number, so big Kudos to the costumer designers for the variety of fabulous outfits they put together.

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About the Author'

Father of four, husband of one and all round oddity. Gaming at home since about 1982 with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Moving on to the more traditional PC genre in the years that followed with the classic Jump Joe and Alley Cat. CGA, EGA, VGA and beyond PC's have been central to my gaming but I've also enjoyed consoles and hand helds along the way (who remembers the Atari Lynx?). Would have been actor/film maker, jack of many trades master of none.

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