Life is precious; we have to make the most out of it. Starting NOW. That's my take on what the late Jonathan Larson wanted to bring across to the audience in his magnum opus: Rent. Eerily to the point, since he died a day before the curtains opened in the Broadway production.
The story revolves around a year in the lives of friends living a bohemian lifestyle in New York's Alphabet City. All under the shadow of poverty and the then-misunderstood disease known as AIDS. Mark captures the ups and downs of their lives in this little nook of New York: Roger and Mimi reluctantly go into a relationship; Collins and Angel, knowing that time is short, went into it headlong. Joanne and Maureen, both with strong personalities, try time and again to smooth things out; Benny, the practical one, marries into a rich family and tries to kick everyone out as the city undergoes gentrification.
As this is the first time I've seen Rent (and I haven't seen the film version), I am happy with the performances of everyone in the cast, especially Fred Lo (as Mark), and Carla Guevara-Laforteza (as Maureen). Gian Magdangal (as Roger) and Cara Barredo (as Mimi) performed well, but they are simply overshadowed by the convincing and touching performances of OJ Mariano (as Collins) and Job Bautista (as Angel).
Despite their great performances, I think the desperation often seen in people living on borrowed time (and with the threat of constant financial insecurity) is largely absent in the cast. Only Angel and Collins act like there's no tomorrow. The cast is a tad too happy, I think. This forms a disconnect with the message imparted by the play list. The songs emphasise the importance of spending time with people you love because they are all dying young, dying soon (except for Mark, who hasn't contracted AIDS). The performers also insist on living to the fullest (although in their non-conformist way).
Speaking of songs, I thought Seasons of Love will remain my favourite (which was performed during last year's "The Gift" concert). However, this song is replaced quickly enough by No Day But Today. La Vie Boheme remains the most lively and Over the Moon seeks (and succeeds in getting) audience's participation (Moo!).
All in all, I love the show. I liked it a whole lot. Not a bona fide Rent-head yet, but definitely becoming a theatre audience.