reviews on this page (all 1 of them at the moment) are of Rent London.
23rd December 1998 Matinee (aka The 1st Time I Saw Rent)
OK, so before I begin this review, I'd just like to say 1 thing:
I really love Rent and I think it's the best show I've ever seen.
But, the first time I saw it was a complete and utter disaster. Not
because of the performance or anything, but because I had no idea what
was going on. I staggered out of the theatre thinking "Well, at least
I'm never going to have to see that again!" (Ironically enough, I
went on to see it a further 8 times, but I wasn't to know that at the time).
I suppose it didn't help that my friend and I were up in the dress circle, so everyone looked kind of... small and far away. Or that neither of us knew anything about the plot or heard any of the songs before. (Well, hardly any of them). Or that we didn't purchase that programme with the helpful plot synopsis and pictoral guide showing who loves who.
So, I could just about figure out what was going on during the Tune Ups. But then it got to the song Rent. And it was LOUD. Loud to the extent that I couldn't hear a single word. I just sat there thinking "Why are all these people running around on stage and what on earth are they talking about?" Things continued in that vein throughout the whole of the 1st act. I missed a lot of the lyrics, which probably explains why I missed half the plot. The whole bit about Maureen protesting Benny's plans to build a cyberarts studio in the lot next door completely passed me by. From Christmas Bells onwards I'd pretty much given up completely.
Things didn't help in the interval, either. The people behind us (obviously true Rentheads) were having a deep philosophical discussion about Rent's portrayal of the homeless (or something along those lines). Meanwhile, my friend and I were saying things like "Is Angel a man or a woman?" and "Oh, I didn't realise Roger has AIDS! Well, that makes a lot more sense now."
Actually, I found Act 2 a lot better. Partly because the whole Benny and cyberarts studio plot seemed to have disappeared, and it now seemed to entirely concentrate on all the different relationships. Which made it a lot easier to understand what was happening. And I really was moved by Angel's funeral and the bit where Mimi nearly dies. But I still figured I'd never see it again.
at that time:
Light My Candle (It was the quietest - I could actually hear most of it).
Seasons Of Love (Absolutely beautiful).
What You Own (I'd heard it before, so at least I knew what they were saying).