By Ralph Wainer
Foot of the Hill Theatre presented a brave, dynamic, and well-orchestrated production of Rent performed on a simple low makeshift stage in St Mary’s College. ‘Brave’ is definitely the key word here. I have seldom seen a musical done with such passion. The chorus performed as well as the leading roles, with exemplary performances throughout. Each and every member of the cast acted superbly.
During this nearly one-hundred-and-fifty minute long performance, the audience could really appreciate the effort put in to this musical, which included first-class ballet, well-tuned solo acts, dramatic spotlighting, frequent costume changes (over three times for many actors), impressive makeup, and a talented five piece band. Music director and assistant music director, Tom Spears and Laura Poingdestre, did a really good job in orchestrating a talented assembly of musicians. I particularly enjoyed the frequent use of drums during this production, which was made possible by Tommy Pallett.
My personal favourite scene was the rendition of ‘One Song Glory’ performed by Tom Thorpe and accompanied by the ballet duet of Helena Hayden Cadd and Bruno Martin. Ellie Webb’s choreographic direction during this scene was among the best I’ve seen and definitely remains a memorable experience. Another great part of the production was the song ‘I’ll Cover You’ performed by Gregory Burr (Collins) together with Angel. I’ve also still got the song about 525,600 minutes in my head. In hindsight, some of the scenes in this play were so well performed that I would gladly admit that they were flawless. Altering any aspect would have dampened the feel of the musical. Congratulations are in order for the directors, Anuradha Damale and Jamie Penston Raja, for making all this possible.
The tech crew had the difficult job of controlling the audio and lighting of the performance, both which were done very professionally. It was certain that a large amount of work went in behind the scenes and the extent of preparation involved in this musical (both technical and theatrical) is definitely not to be underestimated.
It is difficult to highlight any standout performances given by individual actors, as the quality was very high throughout. Rent comes across as a musical with no definitive lead role, placing more emphasis on the chorus as opposed to just two or three main actors. Sheralyn Rose Allon performed a very talented solo act which effortlessly produced laughs from the audience. Some of the audience even participated in mooing during the unexpected monologue which involved a cow jumping over the moon. Izzy Webster’s performance as the cross-dressing Angel was extremely good, as well as Alicia Lee Clarke’s performance as Mimi.
All in all it was a great production! I encourage everyone to look out for future productions from Foot of the Hill Theatre.
Photographer: Lloyd Brown