WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: New Victoria Theatre, Woking
WHEN: 11/3 (matinee), touring the UK until 27/5
This 20th anniversary production of Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking musical features a showstopping performance by this year’s UK Eurovision entrant Lucie Jones as Maureen (pictured above).
- Read on for reasons including why the UK’s Eurovision entry is in safe hands this year
We first saw this groundbreaking musical on its West End debut two decades ago and came away disappointed but on second viewing its flaws are nowhere nearly as great as we’d remembered.
The story is based on Puccini’s opera La Bohème and sees filmmaker Mark and rock musician Roger battle with their landlord over his eviction plans and, more interestingly, the latter’s relationship with a neighbour and the trials of friend drag queen Angel (a particularly energetic performance by Layton Williams).
It is the relationship between Williams and Tom Collins (a masculine Ryan O’Gorman) which is the show’s heart and utterly believable here.
Lucie Jones’ Maureen is a former girlfriend of narrator Mark and her cow-themed performance art number Over The Moon sets a high bar over which glorious act one closing song La Vie Bohème clears with exuberance.
Into the second act with the show’s big hit Seasons Of Love and the scene is set for some relationship resolution as well as a touching finale.
Our initial problem with Rent was its very New York-set story and rock score but it remains a groundbreaking musical that paved the way for much that came after it including Kinky Boots and we can totally see Williams filling the lead’s shoes in that musical some day.
It’s a fine ensemble cast but Jones’ outstanding voice means she’s the reason to see this and why the UK’s excellent Eurovision entry this year is safe in her hands.