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‘Rent’ in 2024 is a reminder to spend the days you have with love

‘Rent’ in 2024 is a reminder to spend the days you have with love

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  • “No day but today” is musical theater’s YOLO, and it’s telling us to go out to live life, and love
9 works theatrical rent musical manila 2024

When “Rent” was first written and staged it was the late ’90s in New York, a city rife with art and culture, social and political activism, picking itself up from the high crime and economic struggles of the decades prior. 

It was a story of its time, putting forward artists’ experiences and struggles, reflecting the social situation on issues with LGBTQIA+ rights, race, and healthcare, particularly HIV/AIDS. Since then, “Rent” has become one of the landmark pieces of contemporary musicals, so much so that “Seasons of Love,” which comes from the show, has been colloquially dubbed the national anthem of musical theater. (No self-respecting theater kid or theater fan wouldn’t know this song!)

9 works theatrical rent musical manila 2024
The musical opens with roommates Mark and Roger

While its “rock” musical label can be contested—it does include some rock-leaning songs but a lot of its numbers are also more pop and pop ballad-forward, as evidenced by some of its more popular songs like the aforementioned “Seasons of Love” or the feisty (lesbian!) duet “Take Me or Leave Me”—what can’t be denied is its overall aural reliability.

“Rent” and its many stagings over the decades(!) have inspired many generations of theater artists, not just in the US, but even on our own shores. In 9 Works Theatrical’s third iteration of “Rent” in Manila, its relatability is no longer in its scene and setting; being in ’90s New York is but circumstantial (maybe trendy even, what with the current resurgence and fascination with the ’90s and Y2K). Its relatability is now solely in its themes. While the story still pushes forward the experience of people living with HIV, their pleas for healthcare, safety, and, the most basic of which, to be treated with dignity and respect is a universal desire, prevalent even in 2024 Manila.

9 works theatrical rent musical manila 2024
One of the key parts of the musical is a gathering of those living with HIV. Called the “Life Support Group,” the members gather and share affirmations meant to empower them to keep living despite their disease
[READ: A quick guide to free HIV treatment and prevention in the PH via]

This run’s essaying of the time-worn yet still very relatable narrative is made more vibrant and dynamic by being framed by its massive multi-level set. Reminiscent of New York’s iconic apartment blocks, the set captures the setting’s grit and grime, effectively transporting us into the world of the story. The set and production design also add to the viewing experience, providing visual layers to the storytelling, and immersive elements, too. (At one point, it even “snows” over the audience. Much like real life, the first sprinkle of snow is exciting, then a little distracting the next few times it “snows” over the audience in the orchestra.)

But of course, the heart of “Rent” is and has always been its characters, each with their own struggles, realizations, and developments. Despite the bleak and uncertain circumstances of their time, it is also through these characters’ experiences that we realize one true thing: What matters is we spend the days we’re given with love. 

9 works theatrical rent musical manila 2024
Roger and Mimi meet on a night the power goes out. Sparks fly as Mimi stumbles into Roger’s apartment in “Light My Candle”

In its 2024 production, 9 Works puts together a beautiful mix of seasoned theater artists and fresh talent to discover on stage. 

Struggling filmmaker Mark Cohen is played by Reb Atadero, who continues to prove himself a reliable force on stage. His Mark carries an air of certainty but also frustration, being the witness to the circumstances he and his friends have to endure.

Anthony Rosaldo takes on Rogis Davis, a struggling musician and former junkie with a preference for isolation. Being HIV positive, he grapples with the idea that his time is running out and he has yet to leave that “one song” that would be his legacy. This also leads him to shut himself in and push most people away. Rosaldo, dubbed the Kapuso Pop Rocker, has the vocals and visuals to fit the role; but at times still needs to muster that vocal grit and strength “One Song Glory” demands. He does however settle into the role as the musical goes on.

Tom Collins, played by Garrett Bolden, is a revelation with his smooth and expressive vocals. Also impressive is the easy chemistry he has with Lance Reblando, who plays Angel Dumott Schunard. 

9 works theatrical rent musical manila 2024
Garrett Bolden as Tom Collins and Lance Reblando as Angel Dumott Schunard
9 works theatrical rent musical manila 2024
Reblando as Angel in “Today 4 U”

Reblando is a stunner as Angel, effortlessly delivering the most jaw-dropping choreography. With electric moves in “Today 4 U,” the sweet and heartwarming duet in “I’ll Cover You,” and even her graceful rise to the air in her aerial dance interpretation of Angel’s death, it’s hard to take your eyes off Reblando whenever she’s on stage.

Most of “Rent”’s most awaited numbers are also satisfactorily rendered. Notable are the upbeat ode to the characters’ artistic and unconventional lifestyle, “La Vie Boheme,” and of course the iconic “Take Me or Leave Me” and “Seasons of Love.” 

9 works theatrical rent musical manila 2024
Reb Atadero as Mark and Fay Castro as Joanne in “Tango: Maureen”
9 works theatrical rent musical manila 2024
Mimi, a dancer at a club called Cat Scratch

And it is the depictions of love that resound the most in this iteration of “Rent.” We are able to see these flawed and broken characters, all with their desire to attain the most basic need of human dignity. They all seek to feel and express love—to others and to themselves. And again as “Seasons of Love” does remind us, “Rent” truly is a celebration of love in all its forms. A reminder too, amid this oft-disheartening era, that it’s still worth it to live life, and love without hesitation, because only today is promised. 

There’s no day like today, as they say.

9 works theatrical rent musical manila 2024

“Rent,” a musical by Jonathan Larson, is presented by 9 Works Theatrical. Directed by Robbie Guevara, with scenography by Mio Infante, musical direction by Daniel Bartolome, sound direction by Bam Tiongson, lighting design by Shakira Villa-Symes, and choreography by PJ Rebullida. Starring Anthony Rosaldo, Reb Atadero, Ian Pangilinan, Garrett Bolden, Thea Astley, Molly Langley, Markki Stroem, Lance Reblando, Adrian Lindayag, Justine Peña, Jasmine Fitzgerald, Mica Fajardo, Fay Castro, Guji Lorenzana, Abi Sulit, Chesko Rodriguez, Jordan Andrews, Kai Banson, Misha Fabian, Paul Valdez, and Vyen Villanueva.

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