Association of Community Theatre
Rochdale Musical Theatre Company
Director: Josh Hindle
Musical Director: Lisa Manley
Choreography / movement Josh Hindle
The 1990s witnessed such a change in our attitudes and the way we lived that a new society was beginning to evolve. There was no more living “a secret life”. This metamorphosis, however, was hindered by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Like the musical “Hair”, “Rent” has so much to say on behalf of those struggling individuals who just want to be taken for who and what they are. The show’s message that you should “live each day as your last, live every moment and take nothing for granted” is as relevant today as it was then.
This show portrays members of the Bohemian society living in, and around, New York’s East Village, a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life. The multi-purpose scaffold set added to the rough, edgy rawness of the lives of the characters. James Lyon’s lighting, and Glenn Knight’s sound designs, introduced an extra element into this gritty production.
The direction captured the cultural community of artists with drugs, H.I.V., and homelessness issues. All the choreography and movement was so clean and had such uniformity punctuating the vocal line. The story is loosely based on Puccini’s “La Bohème,” an opera based on broken romances and death. There is more than a nod and a wink to the Italian composer woven into the piece. Jonathan Larson’s score in this prediction was so well interpreted and the cast delivered vocal magic. There was so much tenderness in the score, not something you would normally associate with a rock musical.
The story covers twelve months, or 525,600 minutes, of the character’s lives. There was not a weak link in the casting. The storyline of the show is narrated and recorded through the camera lens of aspiring film maker, Mark Cohen, effectively portrayed by Elliott O’Brart.
The ill-fated romance of Roger, an angry rock songwriter-musician who is HIV positive and a heroin addict, club dancer Mimi, also with HIV, were emotively portrayed by by Zac McIntyre and Helen Claire Rose respectively.
There was so much love displayed between Tom and his drag-queen lover, Angel. Darren Fricker gave such truth to Tom, and Alex Pembers became the nifty, high-kicking street angel. Angel’s death scene was moving and gripped the audience.
The outsider is Benny, once a member of the community but now the landlord of their squat. There was a clear separation between the businessman and former friend captured by Terry Banham.
There is another same-sex relationship between performance artist, Maureen, and her new girlfriend, Joanne. Their volatile relationship, and the grimy glamour of the changing landscape, were realised. Both actresses, Sophie Lord (Maureen) and Kyanna Cronshaw (Joanne) gave stellar performances. The break-up duet, “Take Me or Leave Me” had that ‘wow’ factor.
All the other members of the community were believable giving convincing support especially in the company number “La Vie Bohème”.
This show has been around for 24 years. Its message is a little blunt now, but it still remains a powerful piece of musical theatre.