Rent - the Musical, Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society, King’s Hall Ilkley, Thursday, November 1

JONATHAN Larson’s legendary rock musical effectively transfers the Bohemians in Puccini’s Opera, La Boheme, from the Latin Quarter of early 19th century Paris to Manhattan’s East Village in the last decade of the 20th century. Aids has replaced consumption as the killer disease.

Larson’s tragically early death from an aortic aneurysm on the morning of the first off-Broadway preview performance left his creation in a kind of warts-and-all limbo. Had the talented composer and lyricist lived, he would have surely ironed out structural defects such as the sometimes confusing Act 1 narrative and the clunky, albeit uplifting finale. Despite the flaws though, Rent has so much to enjoy. The show has lots of heart and the characters really gel together. Larson’s infectious musical score appeals to young audiences and young performers - hence this School Edition of Rent. There isn’t a weak link in Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society’s talented young company under the dynamic direction of Mark Allan. Mark has also designed the costumes, kaleidoscopic lighting effects, and some clever table top choreography.

Vocal and dramatic characterisations are vividly drawn. Zac Brady is Roger, an HIV-positive singer-song writer who, in the number One Song Glory, poignantly muses on his legacy. Daniel Burgess as Collins and Theo Labbett as the drag queen, Angel, believe that they have found true love. Faith Martin’s HIV-positive Mimi is still searching for it. Patrick Campbell is Mark, an aspiring young film maker and Leona Mcloughlin is Maureen, a performance artist. The entire company of thirty is expertly supported by musical director Mike Gilroy and his excellent musicans. Everybody performs with tremendous zest which is sensitively tempered with sadness and reflection in (for the audience) the tear jerking scenes.

A multi-level industrial stage set draped in flags and furnished with spartan chairs and tables evokes the impoverished living conditions and quickly adapts to social hub, night club or cafe setting. The bonding of these vulnerable characters, their catchy music and the harsh environment plainly resonated with the audience, many of them very young indeed.

Performances at the King’s Hall this evening at 7.15pm and tomorrow at 6.30pm

Geoffrey Mogridge