Eventainment’s production of Jonathan Larson’s RENT is outstanding. Set in New York’s East Village at the end of the 1990’s, it is a year in the life of friends and artists struggling to survive in a conformist world. This production directed by Chris Kabay was slick, emotive and a magnificent night out.

RENT is an updated version of Puccini’s La Boheme, turned into a rock musical about life and love and loss. RENT excels in bringing emotion to the forefront whilst touching on some (still) controversial themes.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Eventainment should be congratulated on their dedication to produce large scale, quality musicals employing WA artists for the West Australian public.

This production contains a strong, high calibre cast with some well known names. The vocal quality and clarity was exceptional from all, even when multiple harmonies and words occurred. The acting was credible and the ensemble worked well as a team.

I was most impressed with Tim Campbell (Roger). Best known for his work on Home and Away, I thought he portrayed the pathos and conflicting emotions of Roger exceptionally well. Added to that, he is a talented singer, able to belt out the rock songs and then slow down for ballads, including the tear inducing One Song, Glory. This includes the lyrics “One Song / To Redeem This Empty Life . . .”

I think there is only one really weak song in RENTContact - which is about sex but just looks / sounds like crass try hard erotica. It’s performed in between two powerfully sad moments and always makes me cringe. On the plus side, even the interludes between scenes are well thought out and hilarious to boot. The other moment that grates on me is during the last scene where Mimi goes ‘over the moon’. It is too corny and unreal.

The set (by Chris Kabay) was simple yet effective, although it didn’t set the East Village scene that well. Layers of scaffolding and platforms created differing heights and spaces, but it lacked the grunge and detail needed to contextualize the setting.

A tight, controlled band lead by Musical Director Simon Holt is the perfect accompaniment to the strong cast. Well done to the sound technician (Alan D Thompson) for the great mixing between band and singers, as well as great control of multiple microphones.

As Anthony Callea’s (Mark) first foray into musicals I thought it was a good effort. However, he is the least believable. This is in part due to his character often being the narrator, but also in part due to his huge exposure as a performer. (The same could be said about Campbell, but as I don’t watch Home and Away, I didn’t have that association.)

Shane Jenek received the loudest applause as drag queen Angel. Jenek is perfect in the role, bringing elements of his gregarious alter ego Courtney Act to the role and proving that he can not only sing but act and dance as well. In high heels and outrageously large wigs!

RENT has the tragic story of its creator behind it. In 1996 Jonathan Larson was preparing for RENT’s premiere when the night before the first preview, Larson died of an aortic aneurism. The performance went ahead, to an emotional and rapturous reception.

Four months later RENT transferred to Broadway, where it still runs. Posthumously, Larson and RENT were awarded multiple prizes including Tony and Obie Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

RENT is overwhelming (in a good way) in its emotion, and it is hard not to find something to relate to. It touches a chord with me as I relate to many of the characters, and from its continued success, I can surmise that it has touched other peoples hearts as well.

If you have seen RENT before – see it again. If not, see this production. It is tight, powerful, emotive and inspiring. Exceptional.

EVENTAINMENT and yellow glass theatre inc. present
Book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson

Venue: Regal Theatre, Subiaco, WA
Dates: 9-25 November 2007
Bookings: TICKETEK on 132 849 or ticketek.com

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