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We Feel Old: ‘Rent’ to Be Updated in London

The cast of the London Rent.Courtesy of Ambassador Theatre Group

Remember back when Rent was the new hot show, and no one could stop talking about how it reflected its times and represented a new revolution in mainstream musical theater and blah blah blah? Well, that was like eleven years and over 4,600 performances ago, and over in London, Kylie Minogue’s creative director has declared that the show needs a bit of updating. For a new production opening on the West End this fall, starring Siobhan Donaghy of Sugababes as Mimi, director William Baker has ordered brand-new arrangements of all the songs, transforming the guitar-based sound of Jonathan Larson’s original into “a digital production for a digital world — more a pop opera than a rock opera,” Baker tells Variety. He goes into greater detail to, noting that the show has been substantially edited and will now run under two hours.

Over on the All That Chat message boards some Rent-heads are already howling in protest, but we think this is a fantastic idea. Claiming that a new, poppy score inauthenticates Rent is ridiculous; Rent was inauthentic from the day it was born, an East Village fantasia full of beautiful people singing songs that the characters they played would never have listened to in a million years. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad show, just that it’s a show like any other, not a documentary, and therefore ripe for reimagining. “Because of Jonathan Larson’s untimely death at the first preview, the show has become frozen as a kind of sacred text,” Baker tells Variety. We think it’s a sacred text that could benefit from a little defiling.

’Rent’ gets a New Lease on Life [Variety]
Kylie’s Director Reinvents West End Rent, 16 Oct []

We Feel Old: ‘Rent’ to Be Updated in London