Review: Rent, Cockpit ✭✭✭✭

Following hot on the heels of a successful revival at the Greenwich Theatre, Interval Production’s Rent had a lot to live up to. Jonathan Larson’s take on Puccini’s La Bohème centres on a group of artists living in New York’s Alphabet City under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. Directors Timothy O’Hara and Sarah Henley have made some great innovations with this production, revealing a new level of depth which enables this production to undoubtedly stand up in its own right.

At the centre of the piece is filmmaker Mark Cohen, in this production played by Will Bradnam, who gives a stellar performance. With a superb voice and engaging presence, he is the perfect lynchpin for the show. From her first entrance Ambra Caserotti as Joanne is enthralling, at once funny, bitchy and sympathetic. She brings a star quality to the role that was something special. Her duet with Bradnam, Tango: Maureen, is one of the early highlights of the show.

John McCrea is an angelic, elegant and sparkly Angel; an incredible dancer, his stunning performance is unfailingly engaging. Carlton Connell as Tom Collins is a wonderful match; their chemistry is instantly tangible. Ben Astle’s smarmy and yet entertaining Benny also worked well. Christian Jones as Roger gave a great vocal performance in One Song Glory, but lacked energy and a strong emotional connection. Tori Allen-Martin’s feisty portrayal of Mimi did not always ring true, and her relationship with Jones’ Roger had a tendency to feel problematically superficial.

Musical Director Scott Morgan’s powerful, proficient band seemed to make light work of the demanding, unrelenting score

Despite her unquestionably marvellous voice, Sabrina Aloueche as Maureen didn’t hit her stride until Take Me or Leave Me; one was left wishing that she had the attitude displayed here throughout. Over The Moon felt a little underplayed, but once she got going her performance was impressive.

Of the textured ensemble, Lauren Tilly, Gracie Hughes and Simon Ouldred stood out. Choreographer Kamilah Beckles was a strong addition to the ensemble. Her choreography was particularly admirable in Today 4 U, Tango: Maureen and Contact, which can be difficult numbers to stage.

Musical Director Scott Morgan’s powerful, proficient band seemed to make light work of the demanding, unrelenting score and stayed tight throughout. They made a great sound to support the fabulous harmonies of the cast. It was a shame that technical difficulties occasionally detracted from the work of musicians and actors alike; such a strong band and ensemble deserve to have these problems fixed.

On the whole this is a slick and, at times, innovative production;  a must for anyone who is a fan of Rent. The passion of the promising team and cast is clear throughout. Interval Productions is certainly a burgeoning company to watch in the future.

****(4 stars)
Runs until 10th November
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