RENT: Viva la vie boheme!

I am a huge fan of the theatre.  With one outlier in mind, there has never been a live performance that I didn’t completely enjoy (the exception happened to be a 3-hour monologue about Simon Bolívar).  Every other experience, no matter what the production budget is, has been excellent.

So, ever since seeing my favourite musical, RENT, in movie form on a late-night TV program, I’ve been dying to see it live.  Created by Jonathon Larson in the mid 90’s the musical features a group of young musicians and artists, all affected in some way by HIV/IDS, who are struggling to survive in the urban jungle of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  The production won a Pulitzer Prize in 1996.

Having long left Broadway,  I wasn’t sure if I would ever get the opportunity to experience the show as part of the audience.  However, I was ecstatic to find out that there was a community theatre production of RENT at the Lower Ossington Theatre in Toronto and that tickets were cheaply priced.

Located in the Art District of Toronto at Queen West West and Ossington, in a neighbourhood peppered with artist lofts and antique shops, the Lower Ossington Theatre (LOT) has an excellent, intimate hipster feel.  We sat in the 2nd of about 10 rows of folding chairs (with the added bonus of a little padded cushion, for comfort).  It felt amazing to be so close to the action on stage.  The set was minimal, but quite impressive and the crowd consisted of mostly 20 and 30-year old artistic types.

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I wasn´t sure what my expectations were to start with-  would it even be the same musical or just some lame copy? Would it be the same story?  Would the acting and singing be up to par?  However, when “Mark” took to the stage and the band/orchestra hit the first note I was captivated.  Sure, the soundtrack on the movie version of RENT sounds great but there is nothing like watching a group of talented people sing, dance and act at the same time without missing a note or a beat.

I had the catchy tunes in my head for the rest of the week.

From the song “No Day But Today”,

There’s only us, there’s only this, forget regret, or life is yours to miss.  No other road, no other way.  No day but today.


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