Who Dares wins plaudits for Grand ambition

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I hoped that Dare to Go Theatre had not been overambitious in their decision to produce the 1996 multi-award winning rock musical Rent.

Written by Jonathan Larson and roughly based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème, the story follows a group of young artists struggling to live in New York during the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis.

With an amateur cast of 19 and a live five-member band, this was going to be a big event for the Grand Theatre’s modest stage, and a challenge for all concerned.

Proficiently directed by Glen Hanmer and Bryan Wood, the evocative metal scaffold set (a variation on the original Broadway production) was utilised and lit to full effect.

The Sondheimesque music was also skilfully led by the musical director Alex Phillips.

To single out an individual actor or actress from the mainly strong cast for praise or criticism would be invidious, as this was a true ensemble production. So did it all work?

On the whole, and with a few minor quibbles put to one side, the answer to that has to be a resounding “Yes!” Judging by the audience’s standing ovation on the final night, this show was an undoubted triumph. I would like to think the writer Jonathan Larson, who died aged 35 the night before Rent’s off-Broadway premiere, was smiling down on this production. He may even have had a tear in his eye, I know I did.

I look forward to seeing what the company dares to do next.

John Burkinshaw