Tara’s Thoughts On: 9Works Theatrical’s RENT

I was in my early 20s when I first encounted the musical RENT in its movie iteration. I’m not sure why, but it took me a bit of time warming up to it. Perhaps I felt too removed from the themes of the musical at the time, or because the music didn’t quite capture me at first listen. But the more I got into the material, the more my appreciation for it grew. However, it wasn’t until a week ago that I was actually able to see RENT on stage! My gosh, finally!

RENT is a Jonathan Larson musical about eight New Yorkers who are struggling with life in general as they are faced with challenges related to their careers, relationships, drug addiction, and AIDS. It came out in 1996 and is still one of the most enduring musical productions to date.

9 Works Theatrical’s RENT is composed of a cast that’s mostly unknown to me, which kind of made me nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. After a bit of research, I learned that our Roger, Mimi, Collins, and Maureen (Anthony Rosaldo, Thea Astley, Garrett Bolden, and Jasmine Fitzgerald) had competed in a GMA-7 singing contest called The Clash. I’ve only heard of Ian Pangilinan because he was in a wildly popular BL web drama called Gaya sa Pelikula, and I met him briefly during a #RomanceClass event last year. It was so nice to see familiar faces though, like Rak of Aegis alums Adrian Lindayag, who played (and bodied) Angel, and ensemble member Abi Sulit (who belted out that famous high note from Seasons of Love).

I loved that the cast 9Works Theatrical put together were so vocally talented in that there were moments in the show where I could close my eyes and it was almost like I was listening to the movie soundtrack. While there may be some who’d argue that a performance like that seems too “by the book,” I appreciated it as a first-time viewer. Besides, the actors still made sure they injected their own style and flavor into the performances, so they didn’t really do a note-for-note rendition of the songs. I was happy about that.

The stage design was something I appreciated as well. I loved the use of levels (the set had three!) to portray different things happening simultaneously or show characters moving from one place to another, as in Out Tonight or Santa Fe. The personalities behind the various voice messages littered throughout the show also appeared through various parts of this set, which, from where I was seated, looked like a huge scaffolding made out of metal pipes, wooden boards, and plastic curtains. It was a fitting background to the unfolding of each character’s story, and in the end it became a literal canvas where we were able to see the story through Mark’s lens.

What felt lacking for me was the energy I expected from the entire production. The music didn’t seem to reach high up the balcony where we were seated, which kind of took away the impact of the numbers for me. The best way I could explain it is like—imagine a scenario when your neighbor two houses down blasts music real loud, and you have your siblings or guests in your house singing along to the music. In this case, the musical’s band was the neighbor, and the people singing along were the cast members. The sound levels were just not the same, and it kept me from being fully immersed in the experience.

I also felt like the actors needed more time to improve their acting skills because the stage (and the scenes itself) seemed too huge for them. When you’ve seen enough theatre productions, you know there are actors who just command the stage adeptly, regardless of whether they’re alone up there or performing with an ensemble. With RENT, there were numbers that needed a little more oomph because I felt like the cast was just going through the motions.

But of course I left the theatre gushing about some of my favorite moments, which were:

  • Adrian Lindayag’s performance as Angel. Today 4 U was a difficult number to do but he managed to make it dynamic and fun. And boy did my jaw drop every time he jumped on that table. IN HEELS! I also super loved his I’ll Cover You (my second favorite song in the entire musical) performance with Garrett Bolden. Kilig!
  • So yes, I’ll Cover You is my second favorite song in the musical (next to Seasons of Love), so naturally it follows that I also love its reprise! The moment I heard Garrett Bolden sing at the beginning of the show, I knew I was in good hands for this heartbreaking moment, and I was not disappointed! His rendition of I’ll Cover You – Reprise was so sincere and heart-wrenching that I was sobbing the entire time. (Actually I started crying sa Without You pa lang because I knew what was coming, huhu.)
  • I enjoyed Ian Pangilinan’s portrayal of Mark and wow, he could sing really well! I love it when new-to-me artists surprise me with their talent, and I hope he could flex his musical theatre muscles more in the future. Perhaps in a homegrown production where the stories and themes are closer to his heart? I don’t know—just give the boy more things to do!

My overall rating: 2.5/5 popcorns! I thought it was a decent show, but I found myself wanting more from the performers and the entire experience. I truly believe if the main cast (who are new to the musical theatre scene) were given more time and a nice variety of work to sink their teeth in, they’ll be a great part of the industry in the future.

RENT runs at the RCBC Theater until June 2 only, so if you want to catch the show before it closes, buy your tickets now at Ticket2Me!

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