Curtain Call Chats – NUTS presents Rent

It goes without saying that if it were possible to have musicals running through my blood, I most certainly would. Whether I’m in the shower, whipping up some scrambled eggs, walking to uni, heck even if I was skydiving, I would have my musicals playlist on Spotify open, blasting out my favourite dramatic bops … and that would most definitely include songs from ‘Rent’. I am such a sucker for both the film and the Broadway production, I mean I even tuned in for the slight flop that was ‘Rent Live’ and if that doesn’t show how much of a diehard fan I am I don’t know what does. Sooo when I saw that my university’s theatre society was putting on a production of it, you better believe I was front (well maybe fourth) row, ready and raring for some dancing on tables and flaming trash cans.

Theatre kid nerves –

If I’m being totally honest, I was a bit nervous initially. ‘Rent’ is a show that I hold very close to heart and I really, really wanted to love this production just as much as the others I’ve seen – but wow wow wow let me tell you it did not disappoint!! Granted, they did give the show their own personal flair but I actually absolutely loved that. Plus, these guys and gals can blummin’ act AND sing, I can barely get the tune right to ‘Humpty Dumpty Sat on the Wall’ and yet these guys were cracking out a two-hour star-spangled performance, what gems!!

Ready, SET, go –

First off, I loved the set. Obviously, this was a student production so they were more or less working with what they had but their handcrafted wall collage that contained a lot of cheeky in-show references definitely made me chuckle a fair bit, plus they really made me appreciate the true magical powers of fairy lights. Just a simple sparkly switch on of those beauties transformed the setting from an empty apartment to an exotic dance club in an instant, plus I mean who doesn’t love fairy lights?! Also having a live orchestra on stage added so much to the performance. Not only did it let the audience appreciate the glowing mushes of these music meisters but it also added to emersion of the show which I always appreciate.

Lets Talk Actors –

Now, let’s talk actors. For starters, Felix Revell and Ellen Harris deserve the biggest shoutout ever for making me actually want Mark and Joanna to date!! That concept hasn’t ever crossed my mind, I mean I don’t think I’ve ever even said their names in the same sentence before and yet here I am, pen knife at the ready, prepared to carve M+J in a love heart onto a tree. Maybe that wasn’t what they were going for, but their chemistry on stage, to me at least, was utterly undeniable. What a blummin’ pair of firecrackers eh? Outside of this of though, both Ellen and Felix also entirely held their own. To say that Felix slid perfectly into Mark’s shoes would be an understatement and then there was Ellen I mean, woah gurl, how is she not performing as Joanna in a Broadway production of ‘Rent’ right now?! My socks were not only blown off, they basically blew up on the spot. The same can be said for Beth Hodges’ performance as Moreen – what a Wonderwoman!! I have never liked ‘Over the Moon’, not even Idina Menzel’s performance of it, and yet here I was, following Beth performance, wondering why on earth I hadn’t got it set as my ringtone? I think the answer is that Beth is the true saviour of ‘Over the Moon’ and should be given a recording contract for it STAT.

When looking at our other couples, Angel and Collins were the main pair I was desperate to fall in love with all over again and boy oh boy did Rory Main and Josh Price give me that. This fabulous little duo gave everything and more to their portrayals of Angel and Collins, leaving me longing for the lost dream of their little Santa Fe restaurant. Angel gave us quirk, sass and all round gloriousness, while Collins gave us jokes, joy and just a few tears – everything I love about this little pairing. Plus Collins’ reprise of ‘I’ll Cover You’ was just astonishing, I have never been more happy to need a box of tissues and a tub of ice cream in my life, 10/10 work. Then we have Mimi and Roger, played by Chess Ridley and Sam Joyce, not only were their acting performances astounding but their duets were just breathtaking. I haven’t ever really cared too much about Mimi and Roger, yes I liked their characters but I wouldn’t ever say I have ever been super invested in their story arch, and yet in this production, I really was, which was just wild. Also, not only did Sam Joyce sound exactly like Adam Pascal when he sang which was both jaw-dropping and kinda spooky (maybe someone check that Adam hasn’t been swallowed alive or something), but Chess’ performance of ‘Out Tonight’ was quite honestly one of the most badass things I have ever seen.

Then there is Benny and the Ensemble, all of which were true stars. From their performances as overbearing parents to drug dealers, they were all fabulous in their own right – plus Lewis Russell really shone as Benny, perhaps explaining his legendary choice of eyewear. My hands-down favourite moment of the show was having the ensemble and other members of the cast watch Collin’s reprise performance of ‘I’ll Cover You’ from the aisles. It not only felt like the audience itself were present at the funeral (oops sorry spoiler) but it also allowed their voices to reach every nook and cranny of the theatre, squeezing under empty ice cream tubs and folded up brochures, their joint voice flooded the room like a glorious beam of sunlight, it was truly mesmerising.

Then to top it all off I have to mention the production team. To be perfectly honest (and I’m ashamed to say this) I kind of forget about the production team when watching a performance because we don’t ever get a chance to see them, but all I could think of throughout this production’s interval was “how on earth have these students managed to stage a show, while also juggling reading and essays?!”. They are without a doubt in my mind going to have to step in as honourary Spidermen and Supergirls, or at the very least become world leaders or something, because they very clearly have superhuman powers. With this being my first ever viewing of a NUTS university production I have been fully converted to the world of ‘amateur’ (but if we’re gonna be honest not really) performance. Congrats to the director and produce, Sam Burrell and Ellie Stephenson – the golden star of Ellie approval goes out to you my friends. Besides that, I hope you all have a wonderful week filled with show songs and programmes,

Lots of love, hugs and happy reading,

-E xx

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All images below which were featured were found on and should be credited to the following sources, I did not take them and do not claim any credit for them:
  • 'Rent' original Broadway cast image - uploaded by "JessnKat", Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_(musical)#/media/File:OriginalBroadwayCast-1.jpg
  • Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal in 1996 production of 'Rent' - Photo by Joan Marcus - Broawdway.com - https://www.broadway.com/buzz/194709/confirmed-rent-original-broadway-cast-will-appear-on-foxs-rent-live/
  • Image of 'Rent' on Broadway 1996 - The New York Times - Photo by Sara Krulwich - https://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/rent-tour-to-close/
  • Image of 'Rent' cast June 25 - 30 2019 - Zions Bank, Broadway at the Eccels - https://www.broadway-at-the-eccles.com/events/rent
  • Coventry's Belgrade Theatre 'Rent' cast photo - Sixty Nine Degrees - http://69-degrees.co.uk/musicevents/celebrating-its-20th-anniversary-tour-hit-musical-rent-is-coming-to-coventrys-belgrade-theatre/
  • Performance photo of Angel, played by Layton Williams, 2017 'Rent' performance - The Press - https://www.yorkpress.co.uk/leisure/theatre/15239076.review-rent-20th-anniversary-tour-york-theatre-royal/

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