Rent | StagetekIt's no small thing to stage a low-rent production of one of the world's most lauded musicals. So Stagetek and, in particular, Aldo Zumbo, get points for that leap of faith & act of heroism, right off the bat.

There've been many revivals of this quintessential millennium-closer, in Sydney, over recent years; most of which, I think, I've seen. This might just be the most even and measured of the lot. While it took until the second act for all-and-sundry (other than the band, which was self-assured from the start, thanks to Mark Chamberlain's tight-as musical direction) to hit their stride, director, Zana Cohen can be justly proud of her young, gifted cast, which bent but few notes out of shape in their moving delivery of this tragic piece. Proud of her own efforts, too: this was almost certainly the most evenly gifted amateur cast I've seen. And, though I would've gone for larger performances, at times (especially in the first half), the dramatic trajectory was exceptionally well-judged. Certain moments reflected a lightness of approach not often ventured, or encountered, in musical theatre, per se; discernment well-fitted to Rent, which, for all its worldliness and rightful cynicism is, in the end, a parable of the most uplifting innocence.

The vocals needed more carry, over the zealous musicians, as many lyrics were lost; a tragedy in itself. Other than that, Loud & Clear can be congratulated for living up to its name, in sound design.

Martin Bevz lighting design was, at least, adequate, while the chief protagonist in Michael Watkins quite standard set would have to be the lowering of the stained-glass church window.

Harvey House Productions brilliantly interpolated a filmic sequence, with just the right feel and impressive production values: bravo!

Vanessa Hodge orchestrated stage management more-or-less seamlessly; save for one or two unpreventable first-night slipups.

Matt Vella opened the bidding, as mainstay, Mark Cohen, exhibiting a fine voice, which struggled, but a little, only when some extra oomph was required for What You Own. Luke Cheung, as Roger Davis, for a guy as infuriatingly slim as the above, had plenty and reserve and coped admirably with all the demands of his role. Rosanna Zumbo, as Joanne Jefferson, showed herself to have an especially warm, soulful delivery. Carmen Smith, as Mimi Marquez, has taken time out from her recording career and supporting Diesel, to turn-in a compelling vocal and physical performance. Edward Mafi, as Benjamin Coffin III, also boasted attractive timbre; while Penny Horsfield, as Maureen Johnson, was bursting with vigour and vitality. Lloyd Harvey, as Tom Collins, reflected potential as a baritoned rock god; Brad Dylan, as Angel Dumon Shunard, no doubt transcended limits he thought he had, but clearly doesn't.

All-in-all, it got as close to a deathly-cold New York Christmas as a small Kensington theatre can.

Any excuse to see Rent is a good one. This is a better excuse than most.

Stagetek presents
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson

Venue: Io Myers Studio, Kensington
Dates: June 27 - July 5, 2008

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