It turns out I know someone in the cast for this production, so doing a full review goes into iffy conflict of interest territory. A few notes though...
1) The production itself is something of a mixed bag. I love the set layout but it’s overcomplicated in that there’s some set dressing and a rollaway screen that requires downtime between songs to make a scene change, breaking up the flow. Ditto the use of video screens.
2) It’s very obvious that the director was influenced by the film, so you have strip club Out Tonight instead of Mimi at home Out Tonight.
3) There are 24 people in the cast vs. the original 15. Yes, amateur theatre is about getting people involved, but it left a lot of actors with nothing to do except occasionally wander around as the homeless people.
4) While each production should have its own original direction, this version made me appreciate certain aspects of Michael Grief’s staging even more, namely the initial burst of motion during the opening chords of the title song and the way everybody wandered back into the SOL line during the ICY Reprise leaving a space for Angel. This production was very low on movement and high on literalism, so everybody but Collins faced away from the audience while sitting on church pews. The setup also meant having to loop the SOL chords during the funeral lines while everything was set up.
5) I love Seasons of Love but that doesn’t mean we need to hear the chords as everybody enters at the top of Act One. That’s not in the show as written. We don’t need an encore either.
6) Voice Mail #4 (Alexi on the Beach) was moved up a position so that Without You takes place in September. I don’t really buy it, as the second act was structured to hop through seasons from Winter (HNY/TMOLM) -> Spring (Without You) -> Fall (Contact/GL/WYO) -> Winter (Finale). This takes six months out of the timeline.
7) Props to using the original orchestrations. The band aren’t loud enough, nor is the mixing quite right which, given the entire band are on electronic instruments, is a bad thing.
Despite my personal issues, however, this isn’t a bad production and it’s one that RENT fans should try and see before it closes next week. It’s obvious that everyone involved loves the show and you can see that everybody wants to be getting it right.
Where: Bridewell Theatre
When: 18/19/21/22 Nov. @ 19:30, 15/22 Nov. @ 15:00. Two charity performances as well.
How Much: £15 Unreserved
No worth paying/Other here.