Date 21st September 2023
Society CODY Musical Theatre Company
Venue Princes Theatre Aldershot
Type of Production Musical
Director Charlotte Walker
Musical Director Leanne Evans-Dix
Choreographer Ruth Platt


Author: Kay Rowan

RENTWhen RENT first graced the stage in 1996, it brought with it a breath of fresh air to the world of musical theatre. This groundbreaking production fearlessly tackled serious issues such as homelessness, AIDS, and drug dependence, standing in stark contrast to the majority of its predecessors. Set in a New York loft, it traced the lives of a group of bohemians over the course of a year, shedding light on the profound impact their circumstances had on them. Remarkably, all aspects of this production—book, lyrics, and music—were the creative work of one individual, Jonathan Larson, loosely following the storyline of "La Bohème." Sadly, Larson's life was tragically cut short on the eve of the first performance.  This production of RENT proved to be a thoughtful and well-executed masterpiece. Both the cast, who visibly revelled in their roles, and the highly appreciative audience found themselves drawn into the action.

The colourful and comprehensive program was adorned with an extensive array of photographs, capturing both individual cast members and groups in rehearsal. The quality of these photos was excellent. Additionally, the pen portraits and comments from the creative minds behind the production added a delightful layer of insight, making it a pleasure to delve into the background of this thought-provoking show.

The innovative scaffolding-based scenery design added depth and dimension to the performance, offering various levels for the cast to explore. The fluid movement of tables throughout the production added versatility and enhanced the overall visual impact. However, the repetitive nature of the table dancing sequences became somewhat predictable.  The lighting and sound design were striking elements of the production. Creativity abounded in these areas, contributing significantly to the overall experience.  Notably, the precise control of sound ensured clear diction throughout, with only minor challenges noted during the rock numbers when musicians and singers seemed engaged in a subtle battle.  Each character was dressed to suit their personality with great attention to detail including for example shoes, scarves and hairstyles.

The Musical Director, Leanne Evans-Dix, deserves hearty congratulations for achieving such high standards with the challenging musical score. The balance between the band and cast was finely tuned, and the pacing consistently appropriate. The quality of singing was excellent overall, with commendable efforts in maintaining clear diction, particularly challenging given the musical style.

RENT is inherently an ensemble production, and each individual character played a vital role in the tapestry of the story. The demanding nature of the show, with most actors on stage for extended periods, required an exceptional level of concentration, which was masterfully achieved. The direction, interpretation, and execution of each character's role were outstanding. Notably, Dale Barell and Chris Southgate, portraying Mark and Roger, adeptly anchored the opening and continued to shine throughout the show. Chris Southgate's portrayal of Roger brought depth and authenticity to the character, while Devin Moller's arrival as Tom Collins injected renewed energy into the performance.

Tim Spindler's portrayal of the rapacious landlord, Ben Coffin, was purposeful and convincing. Dan Wigmore, as Angel Dumont Schunard, brought his multifaceted talents as an actor, dancer, and singer to the forefront, exuding charisma and stage presence.

The trio of female principal roles, portrayed by April Sullivan (Maureen), Fiona Moon (Mimi), and Sabrina Hinchcliffe (Joanne), delivered powerful performances throughout the production. Maureen's rendition of "Over the Moon" was particularly noteworthy, Mimi displayed remarkable strength in her numbers, and Joanne consistently commanded the stage with her strong vocal presence. It was heartening to witness the smaller cameo roles executed with such polished professionalism.

With such a talented supporting cast and a robust lineup of principals, the production boasted undeniable talent. It was very well staged, benefitting from thoughtful touches throughout both acts. Director Charlotte Walker's deep immersion in the production clearly inspired her team, and Ruth Platt's modern choreography demonstrated a keen understanding of the effective utilization of space and embraced elements of street dance which were particularly appropriate for this production..

In conclusion, this production showcased an abundance of talent both on and offstage. The society's wholehearted embrace of the project is evident, and sincere congratulations are due to all involved for their exceptional contributions to this remarkable rendition of RENT.

Grateful thanks for the warm welcome extended to the NODA President, Christine Hunter-Hughes at the Civic Reception.