June 20, 2021

Rent The Musical is NOT Rogers and Hammerstein! But it’s Brilliant!!

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Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 8.56.23 PMnewColin Wilson

It was a packed Friday (11), mainly young audience, at The Prospect Playhouse, to view the second night performance of the latest Cayman Drama Society (CDS) Production “Rent: The Musical”.

I must say I felt very old sitting amongst all the young vibrant, perky, happy and excited packed house of expectant theatre-goers.

When I was Chairman of the CDS a play, even if was a musical, that had a theme involving homosexuals, lesbians, transvestites, all laced with drug addiction, would have been a definite “No. No! No!!”

How the times are a-changing. Yes I was chairman a long time ago.

Even if the present Cayman Islands MLA’s stance hasn’t changed regarding same-sex marriage and gay couples the Western World has, even if it not for the better. However, a play with these topics would probably be acceptable to our Cayman Cancer Society to receive a donation from whilst a religious one will not!!! And I am NOT apologizing for that statement. I believe it is the case.

I must applaud the CDS for taking a chance and going with it. After all, when compared to what passes as entertainment in our cinemas and television today Rent would get a PG rating.

In a previous article on iNews Cayman “Cayman Drama Society Presents RENT The Musical” (link: http://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/cayman-drama-society-presents-rent-the-musical/) we gave a brief synopsis of the story together with all the main characters:

RENT tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

From Wikipedia:

“The musical was first seen in a limited three-week workshop production at New York Theatre Workshop in 1994. This same Off-Broadway theatre was also the musical’s initial home following its official January 25, 1996 opening. The show’s creator, Jonathan Larson, died suddenly of an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, the night before the Off-Broadway premiere. The show won a Pulitzer Prize, and the production was a hit. The musical moved to Broadway’s larger Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996.

“On Broadway, Rent gained critical acclaim and won a Tony Award for Best Musical among other awards. The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008 after a 12-year run of 5,123 performances, the ninth longest-running Broadway show at the time (currently tenth after having been passed by Mamma Mia!). The production grossed over $280 million.

“The success of the show led to several national tours and numerous foreign productions. In 2005 it was adapted into a motion picture featuring most of the original cast members.”

The show (CDS version) has 27 songs and 2 Reprises. The most famous one “Seasons of Love” starts and closes the show. It also starts and closes at Christmas. New York is very cold and the street people and even those renting accommodation who cannot pay even the electricity for heating are dressed in overcoats and scarves around their necks and faces with gloves on their hands.

I even felt the cold and it had nothing to do with the theatre’s air conditioning.

So how did the CDS do with the staging of RENT The Musical? One word.

BRILLIANT.

The first thing that made me gasp was the set. It is huge – spacious. The orchestra (the programme calls it a band but it has strings) comprising six talented musicians, Chuck & Barry, Mark McTaggart, Bugs Wilson, Kate Allenger, and Richard de Lacy are on stage. Some of them also take part as “extras” with talking parts. There is no curtain so for half an hour waiting for the show to commence I took in the stage and there is a lot to see – even a catwalk and a small raised ‘veranda’ that is used a lot by the cast singers. Because it is Christmas there are fairy coloured lights strung across the stage. The on stage L we have an area mainly devoted to one of the rented rooms where two of the main characters live. At various times a drop curtain comes down to denote a different scene just over this portion. At other times a scrim drops down in front of the whole main set piece to denote the New York streets and back projection is also used very well to add to these scenes.

This was particularly well used to show the death of one of the characters (Angel) who was dying of AIDS. A very touching scene complete with coffin – a gift from the landlord who used to be one of “them” until he married above his station.

The cast are terrific. From the smallest part to the biggest and in this show there are lots of BIG parts. The main leads are played by David Verhoeven, Rory Mann, Dominic Wheaton, , Shane Delaney, Teri Quappe, Billie Bryan, Sophie Gough and Jacoline Frank. All are very good singers and the songs are difficult. Barrie told me she had all the singers learning the songs and harmonies back in May. It showed by the professionalism of the performances. Stand out for me was Dominic Wheaton who had to inject large amounts of emotion into a number of his songs.

If you are expecting a musical like “My Fair Lady” or “Sound of Music” you are going to be disappointed. The songs here have a hard rock flavor and the lyrics are often harsh although there are a number of soft heart wrenching ones, especially by the character Mimi. “Light my Candle”, a “softer” song is about drugs and the addiction from it. You won’t find any “Doh A Deer” lyrics here.

We even have two songs called ‘Finale” – one is ‘A’ and the other ‘B’. When you go will find the reason.

And go you must.

There is humour amongst all the seemingly desperation of the characters – from the carolers who got applause every time the merry band made their appearance complete with a bell on a stick.

The musical tells a story and the music is powerful enough not to take away the message.

Drugs kill. And there is love to be found no matter how bad the conditions or the gender problems some people have.

I went, not knowing what really to expect as I had not even seen the film version. I was very pleasantly surprised. I was unsure how my wife, Joan would take it as it is ADULT in content and there is an age limit that is strictly enforced (she just made the limit). Afterwards Joan said she enjoyed it very much and as I expected, “I didn’t understand everything that was going on”. And I didn’t enlighten her, either.

As I have come to expect now, RENT The Musical has been added to the very top productions the CDS have staged. Everyone is top of their game.

Full marks to Director Sophie Gough. You are amazing. She also is the choreographer! And …… plays one of the leads – “Mimi”!!

My favourite song – “Your Eyes”. This one really is a love song.

Purchase tickets now!
RENT The Musical runs to October 3rd, 2015
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
Doors open at 6:30 PM for Happy Hour
Try our special Tom Collins cocktail!
At The Prospect Playhouse
Do not miss out on the musical event of the year!

I echo that.

PS. I almost forgot. Barrie Quappe plays a most convincing New York cop. The performance I went to (SEP 11) was the 14th anniversary of 9/11attack on the New York World Trade Centre where Chuck Quappe’s brother, a New York fireman died. Barrie reminded everyone of that as she opened the show. A stark reminder that added to the somber start of the show.

See also related iNews Cayman story published September 8 2015 “RENT –a- message of two or three” at: http://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/rent-a-message-of-two-or-three/

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Comments

  1. Kathleen Bodden-Harris says

    How wonderful! Sounds like a great bit of culture & a door left ajar for progression in the country.
    So wish I could be there to see it. Perhaps 1 day, CDS will schedule 1 presentation in their itinerary for the Brac.

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