With nanna rules, lockouts and increasing numbers of homeless sadly on the streets of Sydney the famed and fabulous musical RENT - even with land lines, push button pay phones and Super 8 video cameras - seems as relevant today as it did when it was first produced in New York.
But then again, when does a timeless song like Seasons of Love ever date?
In the last moments of interval, in the Highway Run Productions new Sydney season of RENT, the cast join us in the foyer, scattered around the room, standing on the Hayes Theatre couches, to musically usher us back in time to 1996, and back into the theatre with 525,600 minutes. In the foyer, we hear their voices serenading us, we're close to them, we can see the pupils of their eyes, we can feel their breath. Back in our seats, we're still close, the song continues as we are treated to the traditional presentation with the cast standing in a straight line across the front of the stage, close to us physically and emotionally.The song Seasons Of Love was originally written and composed by Jonathan Larson as part of his multi-award winning RENT for the funeral of drag queen Angel, but with the untimely death of Larson himself during the early hours before his preview opening, the first performance of RENT instead opened in tribute to him with that number.
Opening night in Sydney this week had its own dramas with an emergency evacuation during the show. Fire trucks and a false alarm did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the audience for the directorial debut of musical theatre star Shaun Rennie. Thunderous applause and foot stomping approval were not restricted to the curtain call, peppered both acts and outdid the unplanned fire engine sirens on the Richter scale.
If you missed it, cry now. This is what musical theatre is meant to be. This has it all. This was THE theatrical performance of this year! Rennie makes the most of the intimacy of the space, a space which closely matches the original off Broadway theatre and utilises the stage, the stairs and yes the foyer. We get close to the characters not only because of the space but because of the intimacy and energy of the cast in portrayals that are outstanding both across the acting and musically.
The brilliance of casting by Lisa Campbell was matched by brilliance in performance across the whole cast. Starring Laura Bunting, Casey Donovan, Linden Furnell, Loren Hunter, Stephen Madsen, Nana Matapule, Matthew Pearce and Chris Scalzo with Denise Devlin, Josh Gardiner, Jack O'Riley, Monique Sallé, Kirsty Sturgess and Chloe Wilson- with appropriate energy, and nuance, power and pathos for situation and character within the videoing year.
After the spontaneous combustion of opening night, with the spontaneous standing ovation of the whole full house, Sydney based Highway Productions has declared squatter’s rights on Hayes' intimate 111-seat theatre until November 1st.
Highway Run Productions’ RENT, currently playing at Hayes Theatre Co, sold out before it had opened and desperate fans have been calling the box office daily and lurking around the foyer before each performance in the hopes that a ticket might materialise.
Fans, the good news is producers Toby Francis and Lauren Peters have today announced that those who missed out this season (and those that are itching to see it again) will get another chance in 2016 when the production returns to Hayes Theatre Co for a strictly limited three-week season in March/April.
Tickets for the 2016 return season of RENT are now available online at www.hayestheatre.com.au or by calling the Hayes Theatre Co box office during business hours on (02) 8065 7337.
By Jonathan Larson
Produced by Highway Run Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co
Directed by Shaun Rennie
Musical Direction by Andrew Worboys
Choreography by Andy Dexterity
Set Design by Lauren Peters
Costume Design by Georgia Hopkins
Lighting Design by Ross Graham
Hayes Theatre Co is a dedicated music theatre and cabaret venue in Potts Point. Named for Australian musical theatre legend, Nancye Hayes OAM, Hayes Theatre Co honours and builds on the vast history of Australian Musical Theatre and its practitioners. This not-for-profit venue is managed by Independent Music Theatre, a collaborative partnership focusing on providing a permanent home for small-scale musical theatre and cabaret. By providing venue space to newly mounted productions, Hayes Theatre Co, will be a presenting partner together with independent producers and artists. Hayes Theatre Co is made possible through the City of Sydney's Accommodation Grant Program.
Photo by Kurt Sneddon.