Review: One for the top of the tree

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SETTING “Rent” in the tight confines of the Courtyard Studio allowed opportunity for the audience to connect closely with the variety of well-played characters, but it also created some problems.

This musical is complex and difficult to grasp, but understanding the story was hindered by poor balance between band and cast with the words of many of the poignant songs indistinguishable.

That was such a pity as this strong, evenly matched cast was enthusiastic, committed, totally focused and absolutely believable in every one of the emotionally charged roles.

Adrian Flor was superb as drag queen Angel, Vanessa de Jager haunting as Mimi and Julia Jenkins outstanding as Maureen. Nick Valois as the musician Roger was suitably forlorn and dejected, Jarrad West powerful as Tom Collins and Louiza Blomfield commanding in her every scene.

Musical director Nick Griffin maintained a tight tempo rein on his good six-piece band. The overpowering guitars, the major contributors to the balance problems, were likely to have erred in control at the mixing desk rather than in the on stage pit. Lighting was tight and atmospheric and Jordan Kelly’s contrasting choreography wildly exuberant then calming and reflective.

This was by far the most compelling, convincing and “real” production of “Rent” I’ve seen. For outstanding attention to character detail director Jarrad West and his fine team of quality actors/singers deserve accolades aplenty. Once the balance issues are resolved this production will rightly sit up there near the top of the rich tree of 2012 Canberra musical theatre productions.

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