I have a confession. Prior to watching Rent at His Majesty’s Theatre on opening night, I had zero background knowledge on this show. It was tempting to do some research but I am glad I didn’t. The iconic musical brings the audience on such a rollercoaster ride of emotions that I would have hated spoiling it.

Set in New York’s East Village, Rent follows a group of struggling young artists navigating love, friendship and life. As the musical was first conceived in the early 90s (around the same time the movie Philadelphia was in the public eye), HIV/AIDS is woven into the storyline and brings a cloud of darkness over our protagonists.

As you follow each character’s arc, you feel hope, joy, sadness, frustration and even confusion. While I struggled to follow some things in the first half, by the intermission, I was rooting for the characters.

Rent is bolstered by an incredibly talented cast. Every voice was flawless. Like perfectly crafted puzzle pieces, voices didn’t just fit in where they should but contributed to a bigger melodic picture. The musical’s signature song, “Seasons of Love” was a joy to listen to. At one point, it felt like everyone else in the theatre was getting in the groove, with some not-so silently singing along.

However, the performance of the night was “Take Me or Leave Me” by Maureen (Calista Nelmes) and Joanne (Thndo). For the uninitiated, “Take Me or Leave Me” is an ultimatum between lovers. Both singers’ powerful voices made for a highly charged duet, mirroring the warring emotions of their characters as they one up each other in this heated argument. While I felt like Maureen was an over the top kook for most of the show, hearing her frustration and desire so eloquently conveyed made me feel for her.

Angel, on the other hand, had my heart from the moment they stepped on stage. Played brilliantly by Carl de Villa, I could feel the essence of Angel through their performance. Carl’s Angel is loving, almost doting, with just the right hint of cheek. I found myself drawn to them in every scene they were in. There’s no doubt about it. Angel is THE guardian angel friend that everyone needs in their life.

On the flipside, my motherly instinct kicked in, watching Mimi (Martha Berhane). She is the epitome of youthful (over)confidence. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to resort to her feminine wiles. While I admired her hustle, I also found myself internally screaming, “Lord oh lord, what are you doing child?!”. Suffice to say, watching her character grow and relationship blossom made me feel warm and fuzzy inside (even if she did give me a heart attack in the process).

Reviews of Rent often reference Jonathan Larson’s passing before its debut. They wax lyrical about how he would never have expected what a global phenomenon Rent would be. So did this Australian production live up to the legacy of Rent? ABSOLUTELY.

Rent is playing at His Majesty’s Theatre until 25th May. Get your tickets here while you still can!