Review by Paul Nelson
THE GREATEST unfinished musical ever unfolded in its touring version at the Wimbledon Theatre earlier this year to a packed house, every member of its audience getting more than full value for their money.
This version of the show Rent, knocks its original London production into touch. It is both excellently staged and superbly acted and sung and the audience, not one to be fooled by a long chalk, rose to the evening and gave it its just desserts. The musical is unfinished, or rather unrefined, because the author, music, book and lyrics, Jonathan Larson, died when it was in rehearsals originally in New York.
The management, wisely, decided not to alter anything and the show went on to be a huge hit in America (where it is still running) though in the West End it had a shorter and unspectacular modest run of just over 17 months. It might conceivably come as a surprise to the audience it attracts that they are in fact watching a modern version of Puccini's La Boheme. In this case, Mimi (the name has not been changed to protect the innocent) is dying not of TB but Aids, brought on by an overindulgence of mainlining (injecting herself with banned substances using none too clean needles). As if that isn't enough to put the wind up you, the whole thing takes place in New York where a sort of squat, a fairly large group of dead end kidz, can't afford to live, hence the title.
It is, without doubt, an unstoppable rolling ball of energy which relentlessly hits the audience for six over and over again. The music, almost an endless seam, steams through the theatre driving the audience, already high it seemed to me, absolutely wild. Handling the entire evening as a sort of Emcee is Adam Rickitt (doubtless responsible for the teeny bopper element in the audience) as Mark who explains as we go along who, what and why.
The lovers, Roger (not Rodolfo) and Mimi are excellently played by Damien Flood and Debbie Kurup, the latter could possibly be held responsible if another Great Fire of London were ever to happen. She is hot property.
All in all, it is an evening to remember, and if you like your music loud and bumpy the evening has been created for you. In truth, it already outstrips Hair, and that is minus the guiding hand of its author, who never got the chance to refine his work. That has to be forever a point of endless speculation. If he could do this in rehearsal, what would it have all been like if he had been given the chance to have a real go at it?
Rodgers and Hammerstein it aint, smash hit it is.
The new Paul Kerryson production of RENT will be in the West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre for just eight weeks, from Tuesday, December 4 until Saturday, January 26.
The Christmas Schedule is as follows:
Mon Dec 24 no perf; Tues Dec 25 no perf; Wed Dec 26 7.45pm; Thur Dec 27 7.45pm; Fri Dec 28 5pm & 8.30pm; Sat Dec 29 5pm & 8.30pm; Mon Dec 31 5pm; Tues Jan 1 no perf; Wed Jan 2 7.45pm; Thurs Jan 3 5pm & 8pm; Fri Jan 4 5pm & 8.30pm; Sat Jan 5 5pm & 6pm
Concessions: 8+ Best available £17.50 (excludes Fri & Sat eve
& Dec 31-Jan 5)
Front row seats £15.00 available from 5pm or two hours prior to performance on the day only.
The Prince of Wales Theatre; Coventry Street, W1.
Box Office 0207 839 5987