October 21, 2020
The Pulitzer-winning show about gender-fluid bohemians in a time of pandemic is back. As Rent hits Manchester, the original cast remember its barrierbusting magic – and its tragic, visionary creator
When a new production of the musical Rent opens in Manchester this month, it will provide proof of two kinds of endurance. The first is that of the theatrical community. Social-distancing restrictions have forced the Hope Mill theatre to halve its capacity and to install plastic screens between audience members from different households. (All seats sold out within 48 hours but online streaming tickets are still available.) Meanwhile, the show’s company will be living in their own bubble of shared accommodation throughout the run. Cosy.
The other example of staying power is Rent itself, the rock musical phenomenon that updates Puccini’s La Bohème to early 1990s New York and follows a group of friends – including the drag queen Angel, the dancer Mimi and the performance artist Maureen – who are grappling with poverty, gentrification and Aids. “For many musical theatre fans, it’s a gateway show,” says Luke Sheppard, who is directing the new production. “It always celebrated inclusion so it reaches very widely across sexuality and gender identity, touching people in specific ways.”