Aurora Centre, Burnside, Christchurch

22/02/2007 - 10/02/2007

Production Details

Director: Peter Bucher
Musical Director: Luke Di Somma
Composer and lyricist: Jonathan Larson
Choreographer: Kirsty Allpress

Executive Producer: Jeff Bucher

Leap of Faith Productions Ltd

Leap of Faith Productions Ltd presents the Christchurch premier of this multi ward winning production, live onstage at the Aurora Centre from February 22 to March 10, 2007.

The creative masterpiece of composer and lyricist Jonathan Larson, RENT opened in New York in 1996 winning numerous awards including the prestigious TONY award for best musical. The rock opera is loosely based on, and seen as a modern retelling of Puccini’s La Boheme.  Larson’s version focuses on eight friends in New York who rise above poverty, social prejudice and AIDS through love, tolerance and honesty.

An outstanding cast has been assembled under the two of Christchurch’s young theatre stars; director Pete Bucher and musical director Luke Di Somma. The cast is a combination of fresh talent and vastly experienced performers who have appeared with the Court Theatre, Showbiz Christchurch, Top Dog Theatre, NASDA and MUSOC. Leads in the production include Christchurch regulars Aaron Boyce and Leon Vant Veen as well as rising stars Jeremy Finnigan, Elly Bucher and Hannah Hamilton.  

RENT promises to be an exceptional production, bringing this masterpiece of modern musical theatre to Christchurch audiences for the first time.

Mark Cohen- Jeremy Finnigan
Roger Davis - Aaron Boyce
Mimi Marquez - Elly Bucher
Tom Collins - Rob Enari
Angel Dumott Schunard - Leroi Kippen
Jo-Anne Jefferson - Jane Campbell
Maureen Johnson - Hannah Hamilton
Benjamin Coffin - Leon V'ant Veen

Dean Gibbon
Nic Eason
Ryan Carville
Darryn Woods
Kat Greenwood
Izzy Tocker
Jo Owsley
Annie Hannafin
Steph Kokay
Jess Stringer

Theatre , Musical ,

A very talented line up

Review by Lindsay Clark 23rd Feb 2007

This brave new company invites us to view echoes of Puccini’s steamy and seamy La Boheme in the context of New York, 1996. The original production was highly acclaimed, winning both Tony and Pulitzer awards.

The impoverished artist in a condemned tenement building, romance, violence and compassion in the underbelly of a great city, the protests the betrayals… It is not difficult to see the connections or to appreciate the temptation to try this line in a rock opera. The title perhaps  echoes also Dario Fo’s  anarchic Can’t Pay Won’t Pay and the mood of the piece often seems  closer to his intentions than the world of the opera.

The familiarities are useful because the rock version darts about like a frantic and angry animal, driven by big sound and strong voices. Contrasting moments of lyrical sweetness are given sensitive treatment though and there is certainly enough depth in the casting to carry the show.

As in much musical theatre it is possible to read this work as another triumph of form over content but that would be to underestimate the warmth of the audience response to the opening night of a big work that will surely tighten and find more subtle rhythms as the season progresses.

In visual terms the show finds a suitable frame in this auditorium, using the height available in inventive ways. In particular the steep downlighting allows characters a chance to step out of the intimate relationship stories and to pound out the commentary numbers eye to eye with the audience.

The plot line, including an extraordinary volte face in which Mimi returns to life, is carried by eight roles, with same gender pairing as well as the traditional off again on again central romance. There is some vital linking by Mark (Jeremy Finnigan), who is shooting a documentary of events. As a device to cover and account for transitions between scenes the idea is more evident than effective, but his strong vocal contribution is in itself very valuable.

Mention must be made too of the gay couple Angel (Leroi Kipper) and Tom (Rob Enari). Both musically and dramatically they are outstanding in a very talented line up.

Carrying the story of the troubled composer Roger and his street lifer girl friend Mimi, Aaron Boyce and Elly Bucher are often of star quality. It is a measure of their ability to make poetry of the material that the final moments of the show, where compassion and yes, that old truism selfless love, do succeed.

The production is not without its limitations both technically and in the shaping of its material, but the passion of all concerned carries the day. Whether social prejudice, AIDS and wretched poverty are a useful springboard for the reworked story is another matter.


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