Civic Theatre, cnr of Queen Street & Wellesley Street West, Auckland

22/04/2010 - 07/05/2010

Production Details

RENT, the scorchingly hot modern take on Puccini’s La Boheme, comes to The Civic, THE EDGE® in Auckland for a strictly limited season starting April 22.
This Pulitzer and 10-times Tony Award-winning musical described by Rolling Stone magazine as “a raw and riveting milestone in musical theatre!” is a stirring and powerful rock opera. It is one of the longest running musicals on Broadway and now it’s coming to Auckland.
This all-new production, presented by Auckland Music Theatre, will feature some of New Zealand’s finest musical theatre performers. Full details will be announced in the New Year.
RENT is a revolutionary modern rock opera, updating Puccini’s classic “La Boheme”, and is widely considered the greatest rock musical of modern times.
Set in the late 1980s in New York City’s Bohemian East Village, this stirring musical tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists, writers and musicians struggling to live and pay their rent.
“Measuring their lives in love”, these starving artists strive for success and acceptance while enduring the obstacles of poverty, illness and loss; all while celebrating their creative spirit, choosing to live life as if there is No Day But Today!
“A raw and riveting milestone in musical theatre!” Rolling Stone magazine
Rent is a rock opera that tells a story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York’s Lower East Side in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of AIDS.
“Measuring their lives in love”, these starving artists strive for success and acceptance while enduring the obstacles of poverty, illness and loss; all while celebrating their creative spirit, choosing to live life as if there is No Day But Today!
The musical was first seen in a limited three-week workshop production at the New York Theatre Workshop in 1994. This same New York City off-Broadway theatre was also the musical’s initial home following its official January 25, 1996, opening. The show’s creator, Jonathan Larson, died suddenly the night before the off-Broadway premiere. The show won a Pulitzer Prize, and the production was a hit on Broadway, Rent gained critical acclaim and won a Tony Award for Best Musical among other awards. The musical is largely responsible for helping to increase the popularity of musical theatre amongst the younger generation.
The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008, after a 12-year run and 5124 performances, making it the eighth-longest-running Broadway show, and grossed over $280 million.
RENT was one of the first Broadway musicals to clearly feature gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender characters. It is also noted for its ethnically diverse cast, which includes many racial minorities in its ensemble and leading roles. RENT is considered revolutionary for bringing controversial topics and counterculture to a traditionally conservative medium, and is credited with increasing the popularity of musical theatre in the younger generation. Many critics have also mentioned how the show speaks to Generation X the same way that the musical HAIR spoke to the flower generation, calling it “a rock opera for our time, a ‘Hair’ for the 90’s.”
A STELLAR cast has been signed to present the Auckland season of RENT — one of the world’s most controversial and successful musicals – a scorchingly hot modern take on Puccini’s La Boheme.
Annie Crummer — who played the Killer Queen in the outstanding season of Queen’s We Will Rock You – is Joanne Jefferson, an Ivy League-educated public interest lawyer, and a lesbian battling AIDS.
Her partner Maureen will be played by NZ’s Got Talent finalist, Melissa Nordhaus – fresh from a season of Miss Saigon.
Central character Mimi Marquez – an exotic dancer – will be played by the beautiful REBECCA WRIGHT, star of Starlight Express.
Actor and extreme performance master KRISTIAN LAVERCOMBE plays the coveted role of filmmaker Mark Cohen. Lavercombe’s experience on stage is extensive, including roles in The Rocky Horror Show,  Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oliver!, Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Lady Windermere’s Fan. His extreme live performances have included shows with Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers, Barry White, The Crusty Demons, The Notting Hill Carnival, The Glastonbury Festival and a residency at Ibiza’s Privilege (The world’s largest club).
NZ Idol winner Michael Murphya songwriter and former drug addict whose girlfriend committed suicide upon discovering that they were HIV-positive. will play Roger Davis,
LEAND MACADAAN – the actor who bought us Mexi-Doug on the hugely popular Instant Kiwi ads – has also joined the cast. Aside from the hilarity he has delivered to millions of fans with lines such as “Get a Perm” and “Do It Doug”, Macadaan is a seasoned theatre performer.
Soul singer Tama Waiparaa philosophy professor and anarchist with AIDS; Golden Guitar winner Cameron Clayton drag queen percussionist. plays Angel, a will play Tom Collins,
Bookings: THE EDGE®
(09) 357 3355 or 0800 BUY TICKETS (0800 289 842)
$30.00 – $69.90 (+ booking fee)
Special group booking offer available for 10 or more
7.30pm – Thursday 22 April
7.30pm – Friday 23 April
2.30pm – Saturday 24 April, Matinee
7.30pm – Saturday 24 April
6.00pm – Sunday 25 April
7.30pm – Wednesday 28 April
7.30pm – Thursday 29 April
7.30pm – Friday 30 April
2.00pm – Saturday 01 May, Matinee
7.30pm – Saturday 01 May
6.00pm – Sunday 02 May
7.30pm – Tuesday 04 May
7.30pm – Wednesday 05 May
7.30pm – Thursday 06 May
7.30pm – Friday 07 May 

Michael Murphy Roger Davis 
Kristian Lavercombe  Mark Cohen 
Rebecca Wright  Mimi Marquez
Annie Crummer Joanne Jefferson 
Melissa Nordhaus  Maureen Johnson 
Tama Waipara  Tom Collins 
Cameron Clayton  Angel Shunard
Paul Fagamalo  Benjamin Coffin III  

Audience bonds with performers over technical problems

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 24th Apr 2010

When Jonathan Larson’s Rent first burst onto the American musical theatre scene 14 years ago, with personal stories about the pain, suffering and sacrifices within a community of struggling bohemians in contemporary New York, it must have been a refreshing and timely alternative to the less controversial subject matter of composers such as Andrew Lloyd-Webber.
It will be interesting to see what patrons make of Rent’s gritty world of instability and whether the raw issues of the young characters – who include a song writer, film maker, exotic dancer, cross dressing gay musician, lesbian civil rights advocate, bisexual performance artist, anarchist and drug abusers (many of whom are battling AIDS) – will resonate with a wide audience today.
Full credit must go to Auckland Musical Theatre Inc. for taking this calculated risk; committing to a large-scale production in Auckland’s Civic; and casting an exciting mix of fresh faces & established artists, including the richly talented and inspiring Annie Crummer.
While Crummer delivers a stand out electric performance (which on opening night also included an incredible act of unflappable professionalism when her microphone failed), she is not alone.
Cameron Clayton serves up a fabulous performance as Angel, climaxing in a show-stealing flamboyant song, dance & percussion routine in ‘Today 4 U’.
Alongside the effortlessly smooth, gorgeous vocals of Tama Waipara (who plays his partner Collins), Clayton’s duets and ensemble numbers deliver great vocal blend. The connection is particularly pleasing over the sublime groove of Musical Director Grant Winterburn and his impressive 4-piece band, in ‘Santa Fe’.
Across the board, Winterburn gives Rent a texture that its creator and driving force, Jonathan Larson, would’ve been proud of.
Michael Murphy & Rebecca Wright both confidently own the stage and interact well as their characters’ complicated love grows. Playing singer-songwriter Roger, Murphy still punches out rock songs with great force (‘One Song Glory’ & ‘Rent’).
Playing smack addict Mimi, Wright is fearless during her solo ‘Out Tonight’. Gyrating on scaff-poles, this scary hedonist bears no resemblance to the sweet Pearl from Starlight Express, Wright’s last prominent role. Mimi’s bleak desperate journey has potent currency, given New Zealand is still fighting its own P-ridden underbelly.  
Kristian Lavercombe has strong presence as the show’s narrator Mark; Melissa Nordhaus (as Maureen) and Paul Fagamalo (as Benny) hold their own among this fierce cast; as do the ensemble of 9, who individually and collectively add their force and colour to Rent.
Larson, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, died hours before the show’s off-Broadway debut in 1996. While his musical enjoyed accolades and box office success, and fuelled a surge in musical theatre’s popularity to a new and younger generation, I wonder if Larson had the chance to see his work today, whether he would make some significant cuts and edits.
In particular, the first half feels too long and seems to miss two potential ends: after ‘Christmas Bells’ then again (if ‘Over The Moon’ is really necessary) after the first performance of ‘La Vie Bohème’. (Rent is based on and inspired by Puccini’s Opera La Bohème, but substitutes Tuberculosis with AIDS and Paris with New York’s East Village, which was a Mecca for social misfits.)
No doubt the fact that Rent is semi-autobiographical explains Larson’s desire to include so much detail and dialogue about the struggles. Perhaps being so close to the subject matter resulted in trying to say too much. Objectively, there are perhaps a few too many unnecessary sob-plots, with detailed twists & turns; a few too many songs, including a couple of company numbers which could be defined as a cacophony of fragmented polyphonic emotion. At times the audience is left overwhelmed (not in a good way).
Music should drive the story forward, providing an overall structure and logical momentum. Rent surges, stalls, moves slowly forward, pauses, and then surges on again. There is an extraordinary amount of recitative (passages sung like speech), and while the cast’s diction is largely impeccable, and even though each aggrieved character has much to say about their circumstance and feelings, sometimes less is more. For many in the audience who are used to a simpler form of story telling, Rent’s structure and length is uneven and at times, an arduous journey.
I mean this in no way to reflect on the great work and polish that director Richard Neame has brought to this production: his attention to detail from start to finish, his overall pace, energy and passion, is without fault. Musical Staging by Teesh Szabo adds thrust and grit, plus a more lyrical dynamic in softer moments such as ‘Without You’ – which is nicely illuminated by lighting designer Nik Janiurek. I do feel, however, that Szabo and Janiurek both somewhat underutilised set designer Simon Coleman’s vast and impressive scaffolding.

Finally, technical perfection on opening night can be hugely challenging if there have not been enough technical rehearsals allocated to achieve the required result. Regrettably, and for whatever reason, Rent’s opening was dogged by a noticeable number of late audio cues, and to a lesser extent, late spotlights, which tended to chase the soloists, rather than announce them.

The sad calamity of her microphone failure, which would have been Annie Crummer’s shining moment, soaring above the warm chorus in ‘Season’s Of Love’, was at least made more bearable for this much-adored artist by the audience staying with her, encouraging her, and screaming support, when – even without amplification – she somehow managed to fill the Civic.

It was a unique shared experience.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Dan Chasemore April 26th, 2010

It certainly was an enjoyable evening, but I disagree with you that the direction team had an 'attention to detail' - for me, although the performances were good, it was really quite sloppy, uneven, and lacked polish from the directorial point of view. In fact I think the cast can be commended for having to work against what the direction was frequently asking them to do.

For me it was really quite uneven - the pacing was all over the place, not at all helped by some terribly eggy gaps between numbers as cast members shuffled on to move tables or to simply get into position. There were several technical issues - not least with the sound, but it did seem as if the staging wasn't creative enough to work out how to acheive the changes of location and time needed to let the story flow.

At the beginning of act 2 for example, it seemed as if they simply couldn't be bothered to work out how to break back into the appartment through the fire escape and through the door - so the cast just wandered around the stage for the number, waiting for it to finish.

Similarly, it 'Over the Moon' felt out of place - it seemed like there were no ideas about how to make it actually justify its place in act one - especially after Christmas Bells effectively signalled the interval 10 minutes previously. It takes an incredibly charismatic Maureen to capture the audience back from this and deliver something interesting - all we got was a half hearted tribute to Idina Menzel which was just a little uncomfortable. A little bit of interesting direction would have given her a fighting chance!

I agree that the show itself has problems - but these are problems that with good direction and production design can (and have) been overcome - that was really what I thought was lacking.

The cast were very good overall - Roger was excellent. Mimi had a similarly fabulous voice (I can forgive the tiring at the end of Out Tonight - it is nearly impossible to sing) although I felt she was either miscast, or sent in a direction that gave her too much to do. Although it was amusing to see her in 'maneater' mode, it would have been nice to see the vulnerable Mimi - a victim of circumstance. The fact that she had AIDS didn't really feature until the end. An insight into her life would have been nice. Having said that 'Without You' was specatular.

As had been commented on pretty much everywhere, Angel was spectacular, although he did have to suffer the indignity of having to shuffle off stage after he died (Spoiler Alert!)- again it would have been nice to see this problem be dealt with creatively.

Mark for me, didn't work - he functioned pretty much as a standard narrator, and I didn't get much from his storyline. His reedy voice didn't seem to balance with Rogers, and didn't have the power to convey anything nearing the conviction needed for the opening number of 'What You Own'. A little more on his relationship with Maureen would have given him a bit more depth.

So overall, for me it was a good performance of the songs from Rent, without the overall power that the musical itself can achieve. There wasn't much new or creative in here, and while that isn't neccassarily a bad thing, it would have been nice to have come away with the buzz that the world collectively got from it in the late 90's.

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Sheer joy in shadow of death

Review by Janet McAllister 24th Apr 2010

Clayton’s vitality and warmth as Angel mean Rent is never a drag
It was when the drag queen in the Santa coat started banging her drumsticks on the scaffolding, singing about sending a barking annoyance to "doggie hell" that Rent came to life. Sure, he was helped by his platform shoes, but Cameron Clayton plays with vitality, warmth and charisma, so that you care about his character, Angel, and her adoring swain Collins (an equally sympathetic Tama Waipara).
And vitality in the shadow of death is what Rent is all about. The celebrated musical adds Aids and same-sex relationships to Puccini’s La Boheme mix of artists and poverty, and moves the whole shebang to New York in the early 1990s – when Aids still killed relatively quickly. [More
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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