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RENT as presented by North Wexford Musical Theatre

RENT as presented by North Wexford Musical Theatre


Date of Adjudicated Performance: Friday 15th September 2023

Sullivan Section - Caroline Daly Jones


Ensemble of NWMT Rent


There is a certain atmosphere that emulated from this stage from the moment this show opened on its second night of a three night run. The friendship and closeness of this small group of very talented performers immediately burst forth and shone from the stage relentlessly. It was beautiful, and I was honoured to have witnessed this amongst this strong, talented and amazing team. A Society only in its third year since being founded by Mr Stephen Acton (Director) and Mr Conor McCarthy (Musical Director) in 2020. A completely sold-out show. Of course it was. There was an energy that bounced off the stage from the opening seconds of this spellbinding raw, and very emotional show. This cast were as one. A unit. A brick wall.A fortress. A chain. It never wavered. It was mesmerising and awesome and I found myself experiencing many emotions as this magic unfolded. This group of wonderfully talented performers each and every one of you had us, me, – your audience in the palm of your hand and it was not just once, but many times during this stunning production, I wanted to stand up in my seat and applaud until my hands hurt such was the beauty of this music. The staging and the raw emotion and as mentioned above – the bond between every single member of this cast was truly out of this world in this outstanding production of RENT The Musical. WOW.

Director Stephen Acton, Musical Director, Conor McCarthy and Choreographer Megan Lopez gave us a spellbinding production that worked fluidly and with ease. From the beginning of the show the attention to detail was very obvious and well done – starting with the big, long wire cable hanging of the set down stage left which was the connection for the tenants in the apartment which immediately emphasised the fact that these were indeed very poor students who definitely could not pay their RENT. Mr Acton’s Direction was mesmerising. This show from the first beat of the opening number was a vision to behold. These three key roles worked beautifully together to present to its audience a show that was exemplary in each of these fields and the production was flawless. The sign above the stage “Find The Courage Despite The Fear Of Falling” which remained on stage all evening but changed colour at various intervals was a fantastic way of relaying the whole story of RENT - it reminded the audience what this story is all about and the importance of having courage always when faced with adversity. It worked very well. I loved the set colours of the table and the steps leading up to the balcony painted in bright colours yellow reds, pink blues green worked very well in stark contrast to the steel scaffolding like bars that made up the various levels of this clever set. La Vie Boheme was very cleverly staged with the tables horizontally positioned so that every cast member could see each other. This seating worked very well for the company and I loved the La Vie Boheme A & B. . This number was superbly effective and very clever use of the stage. Each level of the stage was consistently used and it created a visual impact and the very many different levels when the full ensemble was on stage worked very well. The freezes in many numbers whilst soloists were singing were very effective.

The very first opening of the show was very clever and innovative indeed in a perfect collaboration between the director and choreographer. The entire company was on stage for the opening number ‘Rent’ . It was in your face , raw , passionate and certainly set an immediate marker and standard for what was to come. It was very obvious to me that the director had rehearsed tirelessly with the front line and ensemble to get every ounce of emotion , chemistry , passion and sheer brilliant stage presence from all. Although not a huge dance show, where needed the ensemble were so together. “Today 4 U” was beautifully moved. I particularly liked the use of the chopsticks by Angel and his movements and of course “Sante Fe” superb movement, “Tango Maureen” was extremely well done. La Vie Boheme was a joy. As I mentioned earlier , the opening number ‘ Rent’ was a tour de force and a marker for the whole show.

Choreography was so well rehearsed in the chaos that is La Vie Boheme that it just flowed. You cannot have chaos and constant movement on stage unless it has been choregraphed to minute detail. This was so apparent in this number. Well done to you.

The Orchestra were positioned on stage with the cast under the upper-level balcony with the Musical Director Mr Conor McCarthy over down stage left so he could clearly see the performers, play keyboard and conduct. The NWMT Band consisting of Conor McCarthy, Conductor / Keyboard 1, Karl Crone, Guitar 1, Una Maguire, Guitar 2, & Keyboard, Colette Cleary, Bass, and Drum Kit Brian O’Reilly worked superbly as a group, very good sound, and did not overshadow the soloists . I loved the idea of the live band on stage with the performers. It solidifies the set and everyone is as one together. This band although small had a huge impact on the success of this production. You were hidden which did not take away from the performers – subtly in the background yet all around. One particular note that I must mention is the seamless music transitions between scenes . There are not many on stage set changes required in Rent but where a significant change was required the music carried on , seamlessly leading us to the next scene where the trust between MD and performers was obvious. The music started – and the cast were ready. Superb timings. This worked very well and I commend Mr McCarthy and his band and also for the polished and professional sound produced throughout the show. A huge Orchestral undertaking with beautiful sound and a team who worked exceptionally well together. Well done.

Lighting Design & Operation and Sound by Eddie O’Brien and iTech Productions was subtle yet very effective. I particularly liked the 4 spots shining down on the whole cast from above for the Finale of Act 2 – Finale B. Not at any stage was the sound too loud for the performers. The ‘Out Tonight’ scene was extremely well lit given the atmosphere of an underground dance / gentleman’s club and the lighting was raunchy and sexy and it worked very well.

Stage management was run by Nigel May and Brian Dowling. All set changes were very well done and at one point the stage was covered in litter and all sorts of ‘ Junk’ Such was the skill of the SM team , I don’t recall when it was cleared away . It just happened ! ( or maybe I was wiping away some tears ! )

Hair Design by Marion O’Toole, and Make Up Design, by Tommy Cox, assisted by Karla Treacy, along with Props by Ms Caoimhe Boyle, Wardrobe and Costumes by Concepta Church were very good choices and were perfect for the era. A lot of thought went into these areas, and it showed. Hair Design was very effective and looked great with particular attention to details for Mimi’s curls and Maureen’s silk long blonde sheath of hair. Well done all of you.

Programme Design (loved it) in charge were Brandon Cogley & Tommy Cox. Very well done. Photography Poster was brilliant may I add and already mentioned the Cinematography for Angels funeral was extremely effective and these areas were looked after by Paul Kehoe. Not an easy job with the size of that sheet for the Cinematography reel but it absolutely worked! Well done. I loved this aspect of the show too. Very professional and added a beautiful touch to the atmosphere unfolding for Angels funeral.

Conor McNelis played the part of Mark . Mr McNelis has a soft lyrical voice which suited this part very well . His acting was very good especially in the exchanges with Roger and ensemble. He was the story teller and knitted the show together whilst informing the audience of the goings on . ‘Life support was very emotional and Mr McNelis certainly contributed to this scene even as an onlooker. The duet ‘ What you own ‘ with Roger was excellent . A thoroughly commendable performance. Jordan Bass played the role of Roger. What a stage presence and what a voice. This gentleman is obviously no stranger to stage and although I have not seen him perform before myself Mr Bass works a stage very well. His height, and his guitar playing in the beginning showed him as quite a melancholy character afraid to leave his flat so he sits in his room and plays his guitar. Mr Bass was a very strong Roger. From the moment he started singing “One Song Glory” I was hooked. What a beautiful rock style voice however possessing great tone and musicality. This did not waver once. This is a part that suited Mr Bass down to the ground in both singing and acting and he played this role superbly. “Light My Candle” with Mimi was stunning and effective, “You’ll See” with Mark, Roger, Collins and Angel – was a highlight. Other fantastic beautifully sung numbers for Mr Bass were “Another Day”, “La Vie Boheme” and ‘ What you own’. “ Without You” with Roger and Mimi blew me away. There was great chemistry between Mr Bass and Ms Kelly (Mimi) and these two worked extremely well together. Their love for each other bounced off the stage and there were many emotions here for me as an audience member watching their love story unfold with music was touchingly beautiful. April Kelly played the part of Mimi and what an enchanting and multi-talented performer this young lady is. I do believe Jonathan Larson had someone like Ms Kelly in mind to play Mimi when he was composing this beautiful piece of theatre that is RENT. Ms Kelly’s costumes, make up, and hair, in every single scene were visually fabulous, sexy, cheeky, daring, but never vulgar. Ms Kelly’s singing was sassy yet so melodic, her range, her movement on stage, was perfect. “Out Tonight”, “Another Day” with Roger and Company was so polished, “La Vie Boheme” a highlight for me for the whole ensemble may I add, “I Should Tell You “with Roger and “Without You” were just a joy to watch, to see and to listen to. She was indeed the perfect Mimi. She was stunning, vocally, and visually, and her love for this role and her acting in it blew both myself and the audience away. This is only the beginning for this young lady, and I wish her well. BRAVO.

Angel played by Michael Cruz. Well, what can I say. Words do fail me here. – it’s very rare for me to cry as a member of an audience, but cry I did as I watched this fantastic performance from Mr Michael Cruz of this beautiful human being called Angel who falls passionately in love with Mr Tom Collins (played by Chris Currid). This young man oozes class and talent and your love of this role bounced off stage from the moment you made your entrance in “You Okay Honey” with The Preachers and Collins. What a vision! I loved what he did with this role and the character he created in the process. The drumsticks playing in ‘Today 4 U’ on the buckets – so slick so perfect and visually in this role he was wonderful. A great singing voice and loads of passion. Mr Cruz sang with ease and his love for Tom Collins was obvious from the second he set eyes on him on stage.. I personally will remember Mr Cruz in this role and the beautiful character he created for us all for a very long time. A magnificent performance Mr Cruz. Congratulations.

Tom Collins was played by Mr Chris Currid and how this part suited him. He looked great, acted beautifully and there was a lovely link between himself and Angel – the person who he falls in love with – or they fall in love with each other to be more correct – Mr Currid I loved your portrayal of Mr Collins. Not overplayed, no drama, just a lovely man who found the love of his life after been beaten up one and night was saved by Angel, he bought you a coat, minded you until you were well and then fell in love. This was a wonderful combination of two actors extremely talented vocally and in acting and this lovely relationship / friendship was one of the more quiet less dramatic relationships to flourish between these two men. Collins (Mr Currid) is no stranger to stage, and he worked the stage very well never masking or hiding and always aware of other people around him. This gentleman has a wonderful confident and very strong stage presence. When Mr Currid sang his solo in ‘ I’ll Cover you – Reprise’ you could hear people breathing in the silence and the emotionally filled theatre. You could literally hear a pin drop . I was watching so many in the audience wiping their eyes . it was incredible.

Benny played by Richard O’Toole came across very well as the affluent new landlord and although this is a small role it is also a very important one as it shows the different contrasts between the tenants and the landlord You could see he had done well for himself but also was still a part of the ‘old group’. Subtle touches were that he paid for Angels Funeral, and I really like his voice his singing in Happy New Year and Goodbye love was of note. A beautiful performance and as already mentioned above, with a lovely singing voice. I really took to you as Benny. And I liked your performance a lot.

Joanne was played by Maria Forrest. What a beautiful singing voice this lady has. Ms Forrest has a very commanding stage presence and works the stage effortlessly with great movement and a lovely confidence. Her singing is very strong, and her interactions with Maureen (Roisin Currid) were really good. They had a great bond and I particularly make reference to “Take Me Or Leave Me” a magnificent combination of two wonderful voices singing together beautifully in what I can only imagine is a very difficult piece to pull off correctly and with confidence. What a fantastic performance from both Joanne (Ms Forrest) and Maureen (Ms Currid) in this number. It flew off the stage!. So sassy, and lovely harmonies. These two ladies are both great in each role however “Take Me Or Leave Me” showed how their voices blended so well together. Joanne was very secure in this role. It suited her and there was excellent rapport between her and her love interest Maureen. Her solo “We’re Okay” was very strong and this was a part very well cast and played very well by Ms Forrest. A very strong Joanne, and I enjoyed your performance immensely.

Maureen was played by Roisin Currid. A blonde bombshell who performed one of the highlights of the evening in her performance of “Over The Moon”. Now I know how difficult a piece this must be in movement, acting, singing, comedy, and vocally and Ms Currid played a blinder in all these areas. Great costume – loved the “Warning Signs” across your chest and the cow hide skirt – extremely effective and your eye contact and interactions with others onstage was professional and flawless. Singing was well projected and clear. You have a beautiful tone your warm personality shone throughout the show. “La Vie Boheme B”, “Happy New Year A & B,” and “Goodbye Love” were superbly sung. A super actress and singer who played and made the part of Maureen her own . Well done you.

I must specifically draw attention to and mention the Ensemble Singing in this show. It was powerful. The sound that emulated from the stage for the larger numbers was out of this world. From “Another Day” with Mimi, Roger and the Company, to Sante Fe, Christmas Bells, La Vie Boheme A &; B, “Contact” with Angel and Company, the glorious “Seasons of Love” Full company for the Opening of Act 2, “I’ll Cover You” Collins and Company, “Seasons of Love B” and Finale B – Full Company was stunning.

The sound that projected throughout the Theatre was electrifying. I wanted the Company to come on again and again and just sing such was the magnificent sound created in all the above numbers and indeed throughout the show. There is a cast I have been told of less than 40. This cast sounded like a cast of 200. Again I found myself with tears in my eyes at the Company’s rendition of “No Day But Today”. I wanted to be able to press “Repeat” button. This and the Finale B I did not want to end.

Front of House was impeccably run. I was looked after for the evening by Southeast Chairperson Mr. Rob Donnelly. There was a palpable buzz outside the Theatre before the doors opened and then once inside the beautiful foyer there was chatting and laughter and meeting up of friends and an excitement and anticipation of what this evening would bring us. Front of House is an extremely organised ship with a team at every turn making sure everyone was looked after, given programmes, and seen to their seats. A special mention also to Mr Ronan P. Byrne, who was everywhere when needed, unflappable, keeping all the cogs of the wheel moving along smoothly. A role earned with experience and very notably well done. I loved this show. It was an emotional rollercoaster played by such a super talented cast and production team.

You are a truly amazing troupe of people and I anticipate many more shows in your futures but most importantly for now especially, is the vision, you all made happen, and created, and brought to life here with YOUR group - North Wexford Musical Theatre / NWMT RENT this week.

Caroline Daly Jones, Sullivan Adjudicator

Some photos kindly shared by the society to accompany the review:

Photographer: Darragh Carroll


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