The Liverpool University Student Theatre (LUST) were in their element performing RENT from the 22nd-24th November. The cast was packed with talent which, along with the music and technical aspects of the production, made it difficult to differentiate this show from any non-student performances. The director (Alice McCormack) and the other backstage crew brought this classic to life faultlessly.
RENT is a rock musical set in the late 1980s amidst the height of the AIDS crisis; HIV/AIDS began spreading rapidly in this period and led to increased tension and prejudice, especially towards the LGBT+ community. Jonathon Larson’s musical sought to fight the preconceptions regarding AIDS by showing the people behind the illness; the characters were loosely based on his own friends as Larson (like Mark Cohen – played by Adam Riley in this production) watched those around him succumb to the disease. RENT spreads the message that we should live in the moment as there is ‘no day but today’. While Larson’s untimely death meant he never saw his show premiere and subsequently become one of Broadway’s most popular musicals, his message is still just as relevant today. RENT strikes the balance between comedy and hard-hitting emotional scenes beautifully and this was undoubtedly done justice by LUST’s cast.
Every single performer beamed talent. It would be easy to overplay Angel (Jonny Kain) as a one-dimensional comic character, or Roger (David Nagaj) as simply a brooding Rockstar, but the cast sidestepped these clichés just as Larson intended. In such a well-known musical, it is difficult to not compare the performance to the original Broadway recordings but even then, the cast measured up well. Recognisable numbers such as Seasons of Love and La Vie Boheme were performed seamlessly; some of the voices would not be out of place if heard on the West End with Emily Jones (Joanne) and Fergus O’Sullivan (Collins) in particular stealing the show. The performances of the rest of the cast (including Mia Gregory as Mimi, Taylor Anne Henwood as Maureen, James Mooney as Benny, Emma Davies, Erin Hutton, Emiko Seawright, Laura Jaramillo, Jasmine Millard and James Ahsam) were also reflective of the original, whilst also simultaneously remaining distinctive as they injected their own personality into their roles.
I’ll leave you with Larson’s immortal advice: ‘Forget regret or life is yours to miss.’
LUST usually have two shows per semester and you should be sure to catch one of their future performances; up next is Oklahoma from the 14th-16th December. Visit their Facebook page here for news of their upcoming events and shows.