Inspired by Puccini's La Bohême, Larson's musical transposed the plot to early 1990s New York where a community of East End squatters battle to fulfil their aspirations against the reality of rent demands and AIDS. The death of 35-year-old creator and composer from an aortic aneurysm shortly after the final dress rehearsal of Rent's debut transformed the musical into a cause celebre in New York, where it’s still running.
Baker’s version has been updated for a 21st-century “ipod” generation and pruned down to a running time of just over two hours, with electric guitar riffs and some Americanisms removed, and references to HIV therapies updated. Fellow Kylie Minogue collaborator Steve Anderson acts as music supervisor. The production is designed by Mark Bailey, with lighting by David Howe and sound by Sebastian Frost.
The cast is headlined by Denise Van Outen as Maureen and former Sugababe Siobhan Donaghy as Mimi, joined by Luke Evans (as Roger), Oliver Thornton (Mark) and Jay Webb (Angel), as well as Francesca Jackson (Joanne), Craig Stein (Benny), Ruth Augilera, Jamie Sampson, Antony Luperi, Earl Perkins, Lewis Griffiths and Philippa Stefani.
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For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for the Rent curtain call at the Duke of York’s Theatre and the post-show party at the Jewel Bar along with the company, director William Baker and other first night guests including Kylie Minogue, her fellow pop stars Will Young, Mark Feehily, Kimberley Walsh and Duncan James, and Richard O’Brien, Rupert Everett, Graham Norton, Claire Sweeney, Fearne Cotton, Lisa Snowden, and Christopher Biggins.
Rent received its West End premiere at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 12 May 1998 and closed on 30 October 1999 after a run of 18 months. It has since toured the UK extensively and had two limited West End return seasons, the last in 2005/6 when supermodel Caprice starred (See News, 18 Nov 2002).
- by Terri Paddock