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Review of Rent The Latest RCMPI Production

Web posted on May 22, 2014

Royal City Musical Productions Inc (RCMPI) presented its latest musical production RENT at the River Run Centre from April 24 to 27, 2014. The show was so successful that they added an extra show on the evening of the 27.

RCMPI has been entertaining Guelph audiences with its musicals since 1978. The success of the company stems from the talent and hard work of its volunteers. This is the second RCMPI musical that I have seen, having thoroughly enjoyed their production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the winter. I was especially looking forward to this performance as a friend was performing in the show.

RENT is a rock musical with lyrics and music by Jonathan Larson based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Boheme. The plot focuses on several poor artists living in New York's Lower East Side during the onset of HIV/AIDS. It touches on themes of sexuality, gender, death, friendship, love, art and the bohemian lifestyle. RCMPI described the play as being "about falling in love, finding your voice and living for today."

The musical is narrated by Mark, a filmmaker who lives in poverty with his roommate Roger, a struggling musician and recovering addict who is also HIV positive. Other characters include Mimi a club dancer and Roger's love interest, Tom an anarchist and college professor, and Angel a drag queen and Tom's lover all of whom are HIV positive. There is also Maureen a performance artist who left ex-boyfriend Mark for a lawyer named Joanne, and Roger and Mark's former roommate Benny, a sellout who marries into a rich family and now owns the building they live in.

The cast was composed of very talented singers, musicians and dancers reflecting the artistic nature of the play's characters. Their portrayal of struggles with addiction, death and sickness were very moving and real. Catchy musical numbers and moments of comedic relief offset these somber themes. Some highlights included Maureen's performance art protest, and a foul-mouthed elderly homeless woman who told off several police officers and Mark.

RCMPI did justice to the popular musical and brought a fun and youthful feel to the story. They were also able to highlight important social justice issues in an entertaining way. The show was thoroughly enjoyed by all audience members who sang and clapped along to musical numbers and gave the cast a standing ovation.

RENT not only includes timeless themes of love, life and death, but also touches on timely issues of homophobia, HIV/AIDS, sexuality and gender. It was great that volunteers from HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health (ARCH) were available to promote awareness of these issues and their connection to the Guelph community. They even have an easily accessible app H3, which includes information on how HIV is contracted, a homophobia quiz, comebacks to homophobic remarks and tips on addressing the stigma of HIV.

Musicals like RENT are not only entertaining but also bring awareness to important real life issues. It is important that citizens be informed in order to create a supportive community. ARCH is a great organization that fosters awareness and supports community members. Connecting with the organization is a great way to stay informed and connected. You can visit their website at http://www.aidsguelph.org to learn more.

RCMPI is an excellent company that provides a great opportunity for Guelph and area performance artists to display their talents. They will continue to entertain Guelph audiences for years to come and I would encourage anyone with a love for theatre to attend their productions.


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