Rent opened at the Duke of York’s on 16 October 2007 (previews from 2 October) and had been booking through to 5 April 2008. Last week, producers announced that EastEnders Jessie Wallace would make her West End debut in the production on 24 December, taking over from Denise Van Outen as lesbian performance artist Maureen (See News, 11 Dec 2007). Wallace will join the cast, continuing until the 2 February closure. A show spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that there’s a possibility the production may have a life beyond the Duke of York’s
Kylie Minogue creative director William Baker has given Jonathan Larson’s 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical a 21st-century makeover. Inspired by Puccini's La bohème, Rent transposes 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 the 35-year-old American 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. 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.
Baker's version has been pruned down to a running time of just over two hours, with some Americanisms excised and references to HIV therapies updated. The production is designed by Mark Bailey, with musical supervision by fellow Kylie collaborator Steve Anderson.
The cast also features: Siobhan Donaghy (as Mimi), Luke Evans (Roger), Oliver Thornton (Mark), Leon Lopez (Collins), Jay Webb (Angel), Francesca Jackson (Joanne) and Craig Stein (Benny). The production is presented by the Ambassador Theatre Group, Tulchin/Bartner Productions and Michael Brenner. In this year’s Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, Rent has been nominated for two awards: Best Musical Revival and Best Actress in a Musical for Denise Van Outen (click here to vote!).
- by Terri Paddock