Creators Theatre Company finally open their inaugural show on Friday 24 September at The Dovehouse Theatre and it’s safe to say that this company is unafraid of a challenge. Firstly, navigating a pandemic is no easy feat and to come out the other side, having faced reschedules, recasting and more, it’s practically a miracle. This story is likely to resonate deeply with many other local companies across the region and beyond. Following 18 months of uncertainty and many groups still rebuilding, to be able to sit in on Creators dress rehearsal tonight gave a real glimmer of hope for community theatre everywhere.
Founded in 2020, Creators aim to stage the overlooked shows, the shows that accommodate smaller casts, the ones that are brilliant and unique. So, what better way to start, than with Jonathan Larson’s RENT. Marking 25 years since its premiere on Broadway, the show follows the intertwining lives of struggling young artists as they navigate bohemian life in the East Village, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
The Dovehouse Theatre is unrecognisable as scaffolding fills the space and the audience is instantly transported to Mark and Roger’s flat in Alphabet City. Documentary-maker Mark acts as narrator, taking us on the journey through the lives of these various characters. Matthew James embodies the role of Mark, with brilliant comic timing and great vocals, he effortlessly breaks the fourth wall with the audience and draws you further into the story.
Ash Clifford brings a pleasing raspy, rock vocal to his performance as Mark’s roommate, Roger, a struggling musician. As Roger tackles his drug demons, Ash brings a warmth and care to the character. This is not only reflected in his friendship with Mark, but also his relationship with Mimi, played by Faye Harvey-Smith, who makes her leading role debut in this show. Ash and Faye complement each other well and their performance of Without You is hauntingly beautiful.
Meanwhile, another storyline unfolding is that of the tumultuous relationship between lawyer Joanne (Jenne Collins) and performance artist, Maureen (Kendra Foster-McBride). Jenne brings sass to the role, with a fantastic performance of We’re Okay. It’s not until the latter half of Act 1 that the audience finally meet Maureen and it’s worth the wait. Kendra astonishes with Over the Moon, a predominantly unaccompanied song, nailing every note and when her voice joins with Jenne’s it makes for a stellar performance of Take Me or Leave Me.
The final pairing of Jaii Andrew and Dan Peet is quite honestly remarkable. They possess a beautiful, believable chemistry on stage and it is utter perfection. Jaii breathes a joyous life into Angel, from heart-warming to heart-breaking moments, they don’t miss a beat with comic timing and are enthralling to watch on stage. Dan Peet complements in the role of Collins, his gorgeous vocals fuse with Jaii’s for I’ll Cover You, whilst the gut-wrenching reprise of this song sends tears rolling down the cheek.
Other highlights include You'll See, with standout vocals from Mike Bentley as Benny and the energy mustered up by the company for La Vie Boheme was infectious. Each individual performance is well crafted, but when the whole ensemble unite their voices, it really is something special. From Seasons of Love to No Day But Today, the harmonies are tight and glorious.
The cast and creative team have clearly worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this production come to life and thanks to the dedication of Richard Agg (Director), Chris Davis (Musical Director), Suzanne Ballard-Yates (Choreographer) and Adam Tullett (Stage Manager), there is no doubt that their first show is a resounding success.
At the very beginning of the programme it is noted that Creators ‘create unforgettable theatre experiences’. Well, if this is just the dress rehearsal, it’s a certainty that once this show opens no one will forget it. Get your tickets if you haven’t already, because it’s not to be missed and not to be forgotten.
RENT plays at The Dovehouse Theatre until 2 October, with performances everyday except Monday.
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