A word from the director
Rent the musical tells the story of a group of impoverished artists living in New York’s East Village and the bohemian Alphabet City in the mid 90s and their struggles living under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
Loosely based on La Bohéme the show started life as a workshop production with a limited three week run Off Broadway. On the evening before it's premiére, the show’s writer Jonathan Larson died suddenly. The show went on the following day to critical acclaim and moved to Broadwayfor a very successful run.
About 14 years ago I was introduced to a song from a show I knew very little about. It was ‘Seasons of Love’. This song is one that people will tell you they either love or hate (even the Rentheads) and I fell on the side of loving it. I always intended to find out more about the show it came from and a few years went by before I started to find out more about Rent. But the more I listened and watched it, the more a picture of how I wanted to stage it came to mind. Three years ago I began to seriously consider producing Rent and began working on bringing this version to the stage. As a rock musical Rent is raw with an energy that carries you through highs and lows following the lives of the characters you meet.
Jody Randall: Director
Danny Hurley – Mark Cohen
Stefan Mullard – Roger Davis
Lorenzo Culora – Tom Collins
Tom Richards – Benjamin Coffin III (Benny)
Sarah Randall – Joanne Jefferson
Simon Carnell – Angel Dumott Schunard
Chanelle Hayles – Mimi Marquez
Melissa Guest – Maureen Johnson
Member of the Ensemble appear as various homeless people, support group members and bohemians as well as those parts listed below:
Katie Saunders – Ensemble / Mrs Cohen
Leo Appleton – Ensemble / The Man/ Support Group Leader
Tony Saxby – Ensemble / Mr Jefferson/ Mr Grey/ Police Officer
Helga Kilroy – Ensemble / Mrs Jefferson/ Police Officer
Ollie Evans – Ensemble / Waiter/ Squeegee Man
Georgina Barrell – Ensemble / Soloist
Michael Doe – Ensemble / Gordon
Katie Mead – Ensemble / Bag Lady/ Mrs Marquez
Gemma Colton – Ensemble / Alexis Darling
Charlie Cragg – Ensemble / Soloist
Review: Your Harlow. June 2014
By Harry Tennison
RENT originally opened on Broadway in 1996 after having to move from its original off-Broadway home due to its increasing popularity and the emergence of the self-titled ‘Rent heads’ – in short, the show was simply too popular! The musical tells the story of struggling artists attempting to live and love in New York’s Alphabet City in the early 1990s, while living in the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
Harlow Theatre Company’s production is their first musical in 18 years, however given the slickness of their production, it would seem that they’d never stopped. The creative team of director Jody Randall, Paul Tarling, who choreographed the production, and MD Chris Redman have created a brash and honest production that surpasses the expectations for an amateur production.
Danny Hurley was excellent as Mark, the American-Jewish filmmaker who rejects corporate advances in order to stay true to his friends, whilst Stefan Mullard depicted the HIV+ Roger with a fragile and brittle physicality.
Simon Carnell’s portrayal of Angel was sublime, yet emotionally devastating as he was held in the arms of lover Tom, played solidly by Lorenzo Culora. Chanelle Hayles was a perfect casting choice for Mimi, the HIV+ drug addict who falls in love with Roger. Her delicate voice yet powerful stage presence resonated with Rosario Dawson’s performance in the 2005 film version.
Brett Stevens and Steve Dove designed and built an imaginative set, featuring the very talented on-stage band, and Mike Penketh’s lighting design was smart and impactful.
Randall’s directing was bold and engaging, juxtaposing Maureen’s (Melissa Guest) bare backside with the harrowing scenes of the HIV support group in Act 1. Tarling’s choreography was at its best in Contact, blending seamlessly from the sordid sex scenes into a touching tribute to the recently departed Angel, whilst Redman ensured such hits as Seasons of Love and La Vie Boheme sounded as good as they looked.
Redman told me before the show that this was an “experiment”, in which case I look forward to the upcoming variations and replications that Harlow Theatre Company produces. The creative dream team of Randall, Tarling and Redman have created a production which, rightfully so, refuses to shy away from its intense themes, and sets a new standard for amateur theatre in Harlow.