12:43pm Tuesday 20th October 2009
By Anna Mansell
Arriving at an amateur production knowing its musical director is a professional of some standing – especially having led the band of said show in the West End – there’s a certain level of expectation before a single note has been played or sung.
Fortunately for me the Chorley Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society’s production of Rent did not disappoint, with direction by Liz Ritson, and Chorley’s Karl Pendlebury as MD.
The story, based on Puccini’s La Boheme, tells of recent-times New York as HIV and AIDS runs riot through the community, which runs riot through the streets in protest at spiraling rent charges.
We follow a year (or 525,600 minutes) in the lives of a group of friends, sharing in their loves and losses as they battle drug addiction and poverty, as well as the authorities.
The stand out performance on opening night came from Chris Roberts, as Mark, the film-maker ‘narrator’ of the piece. I was told he is just 18 years old, but he handled this pivotal role with a skillful maturity and performance strength which belied his years.
By contrast, first night nerves were on display for a couple of principals, notably Chen Ko (Angel) and Cathy Higgin (Mimi Marquez). But these were clearly on the way to being calmed come the second act – and the whole performance of Mimi’s solo Without You was a credit to the two of them, with Martin Pearce (Tom Collins). The toned down vocal by Cathy in this number more than compensated for some rather forced moments in other songs.
Graham Hope, Natalie Crompton and Elinor Hamilton were all spot on in their characters.
The ensemble was tight, providing cameos, backing vocals and cast numbers, the catchy Seasons of Love (as ever in this show) was a harmonious delight.
Karl’s band could not be faulted, and Liz’s direction kept the ‘sung through’ action moving at pace.
A difficult show, very well done.
l Rent, Chorley Little Theatre, until Saturday, 7.30pm ANNA MANSELL
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