RENT as a show is a favourite of mine, which makes it hard for any non-professional group to live up to my high expectations, however SODS did a great job.
Aspects of the casting did not immediately visually fit with my personal view of the characters, but this thought was quickly forgotten when all the principles performed well.
Playing the leading men Mark and Roger were John Staines and Matt Miller respectively. John's interpretation of Mark was quite understated at times, which played well for the character who acts as the narrator of the stories of the others. Matt's Roger was strong throughout - his voice was perfect for the role, a role according to the programme he had played 10 years previously. The song What You Own by these two was a highlight of the show for me and showcased their great voices.
Mardy Lahna brought the character of Mimi Marquez to life (and near death) well. Her singing was great as were her interactions with Roger. Without You was another musical highlight for me.
I have to admit that I wasn't sure about Jordi Tiney playing Angel at first, for any RENT-Head it is an iconic role within the show. However I really warmed to the interpretation as the show progressed. A wow moment was when he performed the splits centre stage - very impressive - and made me question why more was not made of his obvious flexibility / dance skills. Another wow moment was during the song Contact - suddenly Angel's voiced rung out and it made me question whether it was Jordi singing or a blended in backing track!
Completing the principle line up were Luke Brown as Tom Collins, Samantha Coles as Maureen Johnson - I loved her characterisation in this role and the Over the Moon scene was another highlight for me, Kirsty Buxton as Joanne Jefferson and Lewis Carlile as Benny who although impressive in his acting was perhaps a little too likeable.
Despite being a show about specific stories, I feel that the company have to be right for the show to work as a whole, and the SODS company was right. In key scenes / musical numbers such as Rent, La Vie Boheme and Seasons of Love, the whole cast has to be on the same page, and the SODS company were. I had literal shivers during Seasons of Love and in the Life Support Meeting songs.
A special mention has to got to the dancers who were all impressive and to the Seasons of Love soloists who did a great job.
From a technical side, the minimalist set generally worked well although the tables were perhaps too small for the cast to lie on and did not work well as the padlocked door.
The lighting was well thought out and made the scenes very atmospheric at times. I enjoyed the dramatic use of spots, and coloured cells (blue, purple and red) to denote emotional scenes. It worked well to have the bare painted brick at the back as well.
The band, who were positioned on stage - something rarely seen at the Palace Theatre in my experience, were great and kept the pace of the show going even when the odd line of singing was forgotten by the cast.
Overall, I enjoyed the show - not just because I love the show, but because SODS did a great job performing it.
SODS next show is to be Company.