Okay okay, I know. You’re about to read a musical theatre review in Beat. You’re probably sitting on the tram thinking, ‘Why is this worth my time? I could be reading about how much the AIR Awards sucked, or be perving on Tim Rogers.”
This is why you should keep reading: sex, drugs, prostitution, guitars, baggies, love triangles, bums, hipsters, film makers, smack, strippers. Oh, and it won a bunch of Tonys and stuff too. Do you want to keep reading now? I thought so.
You may not realise it, but you actually already know a little bit about Jonathan Larson’s ‘90s musical. There’s a scene in Team America, between all of the puppet porn and well-timed Kim Jong Il jokes, where they see a musical, ‘Lease’. The lyrics went something like this:
“AIDS/AIDS/AIDS/AIDS/AIDS/AIDS/AIDS (AIDS).” This is Rent, taken downtown to its purest form. Rent is about living the hipster life in New York in the late 90s. Heroin addiction was rife, homosexuality was still largely taboo, and everyone dressed like hobos because they had to, not because that’s the way Mary-Kate Olsen dressed.
Following the tribulations of a series of gay and straight couples trying to get by, it has become not only the vibrato voice of a generation, but also a much massacred stage production done by amateur theatre companies. Whitehorse’s production however was far from amateur.
The talent that Whitehorse Theatre Company pulls in gives faith back to Melbourne’s musical theatre scene. The roles of Mark (Daniel Benge), Mimi (Katie Wood) and Maureen (Katie Weston) were played with professionalism and octaves as far stretching as their limbs. The standout voices belonged to Kuleika Khan, playing the feisty lawyer lesbian Joanne, and Phil Haby, reprising his role as Collins with his gurgling treacle voice after playing the empathy evoking character two years ago at The National Theatre.
If you need an introduction to musical theatre, this is it. Viva la vie Boheme!