It's close to midnight and in the past 24 hours I've had two evenings of wonderful music (last night I attended the black-tie Vienna New Year's Concert at the Shangri-la) and a pretty unrestful night in between, for some reason; so I should be clamoring for some shut-eye now. But here I am on my Mac writing about what I've just seen tonight because it's made me unable to sleep.
Multi-talented entertainer and writer Christopher de Venecia very kindly invited me to attend the opening night of RENT as produced by 9 Works Theatrical, at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in Makati. Maybe it's related to the events in my life over the past few weeks, or the fact that tonight began with a heavy feeling I can't explain (and completely unrelated to RENT!) -- but this wonderful production, this wonderful performance of RENT tonight, touched me in a very emotional way.
I've seen RENT performed in different cities and also watched the movie. But tonight's show has been perhaps the most memorable for me. The show was well-paced -- especially as there were no set changes in over 2.5 hours -- and the flow was just right. Kudos to director Robbie Guevara. And singer/ TV host Gian Magdangal and TV personality Ciara Sotto (who alternates with Sheree Bautista) were revelations in their respective roles as songwriter Roger Davis and dancer Mimi Marquez.
When Ciara first went on stage for the song "Will You Light My Candle," I found her singing to be good but her acting was a little stiff for my taste. I also thought she and Gian Magdangal could've used more chemistry between them for that scene about their first encounter. But she quickly warmed into the role and by the time she sang "Out Tonight," the audience was completely enamored with her. Or perhaps, "stunned" is an even better term to use. "Out Tonight" is a difficult song, and the way she sang it is just one act you have to see.
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PS: After the show, I learned that Ciara is not really a stage actress, and that the other actress playing Mimi is TV personality Sheree Bautista, who is Gian's girlfriend in real life, and she was watching the show from the audience. Maybe these two factors sort of explained the initial awkwardness -- I'm sure it's difficult to play the Mimi scenes when you know your partner's real-life girlfriend is about 10 meters away from you.
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It was really the music -- the amazing singing talents of the cast and the truly touching melodies and lyrics of Rent as written by Jonathan Larson, that made the evening.
Music is largely an emotional experience and perhaps this was the biggest factor to my experience tonight, because the musical direction and the singing of each and every performer tonight was just superb. After the show, when we all just sat around asking the performers questions, I learned that many of the performers in this season of RENT are actually RENT veterans. So they know their lines well and can do the drill expertly; but with this season, they've gone even deeper into their roles because they've had all these deep insights from past productions. Maybe that's why this season's RENT is so good.
Most famous songs
Of course, the show's most famous song, Seasons of Love, was performed beautifully, along with the most touching songs: Without You and I Should Tell You. But, to tell you the truth, all the songs were so enjoyable even if I'd heard them so many times before. It's a pretty long show but you absolutely don't notice the time at all.
It also helped that the auditorium is so intimate. The audience is in such close proximity to the performers that you can't help but feel for them.
The story of RENT
RENT's story is not a happy topic. Outwardly, at least, it's about starving artists with lots of spunk and too little morality, living in the worst ghettos during the dark days of New York, and getting punished for having an excess of spunk and/or a shortage of morality. Almost all of them get AIDS as a result and death is just a matter of time. It's a story that so few people can actually identify with.
What it's really all about
But in reality, it's about things close to most of us that we really should think more about: about living each day as well as possible because the future is uncertain for everyone, about the need for and the joy of encountering kindred souls, and the importance of not letting opportunities to connect with a soul mate pass you by. Too few people in this world have actually found their soul mates because the odds are just too great -- so when you find yours, you shouldn't let him or her go. RENT subtly conveys the message that it would be inane to let that someone slip away.
I was watching a musical about people dying of AIDS and yet I found myself thinking about what makes people truly happy, everyone's need for real love and connection, and what was lacking in my own life -- not that there's much to say in this aspect; but certainly no one's life is perfect. RENT does that to you if you let it. And, yes, it's something you can watch again and again.
Do yourself a favor -- go see this with someone you love or someone you feel close to. This is an experience to be shared with someone you care about. Soon.
Showdates from tomorrow:
February 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27
and March 4, 5, and 6
at 8 pm
with afternoon matinees on weekends
at the RCBC Plaza in Makati
call 557.5860/ 586.7105/ 0917-5545560
or visit www.9workstheatrical.com
Tickets are also available
at TicketWorld at 891.9999
please call Rachel at 813-8400
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets for the dinner and concert
cost PhP 1499 per person.
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