No day but today

SENSES WORKING OVERTIME - Luis Katigbak () - February 25, 2011 - 12:00am

Despite having lived through the ‘90s, I somehow managed to never watch a production of the musical Rent.

Not that I was making special efforts to avoid it, mind you. Theoretically, if the cast and crew had broken into my home, set up a stage between the television and the couch where I could be found slumped walrus-like, and performed the whole thing while I digested pizza, then I would have seen it. That this never happened means that those people weren’t trying hard enough to win me over.

Anyway: this year, I got another chance to watch it, and I somehow managed to pry myself loose from the couch, brush off the crumbs of shattered dreams and unfulfilled promises, and lope over to the Carlos P. Romulo auditorium in RCBC Plaza, for 9 Works Theatrical’s third restaging of the revolutionary rock musical.

What is Rent about? The quick and cynical summary is that it’s about a bunch of starving urban American artist-types surviving and loving and complaining and dying. There’s much more to it than that, naturally. The PR says it’s “an imaginative retelling of the classic Giacomo Puccini opera, La Boheme, set in the gritty Lower East Village of New York City.” “Gritty” is relative, and you may at first be disturbed by the fact that the scenarios you are watching have much grittier, hopeless counterparts playing in real life just downstairs in the streets nearby, but it is to the production’s credit that it manages to quell these qualms without entirely washing them away.

Roger and Mimi: Gian Magdangal and Sheree Bautista’s real-life love doesn’t always translate.

Directed by Robbie Guevara, this newest version of Rent is an enjoyable, energetic, affecting and impressive production. Of course, “energetic” is probably a given: if you’re staging rousing numbers like La Vie Boheme and Today 4 U, listless and laid-back is not an option. “Enjoyable” is a little harder to attain, but given the strength of the material and the passionate yet well-planned way it was presented, they succeeded — “impressive” follows and flows from that as well. “Affecting” is something you (as audience and performer) hope for; here, while not every emotional scene nails it, they do achieve those moments of heart-stirring poignancy, particularly during a scene in Act Two led by OJ Mariano as street genius Tom Collins.

And as long as we’re singling out performers: Fredison Lo as filmmaker Mark Cohen and Gian Magdangal as singer/songwriter Roger Davis, both reprising their roles from the previous production, are obvious assets, prodigiously talented and self-assured. There are problems with Sheree Bautista as dancer Mimi Marquez — she’s got the look and the moves and the voice, but needs to develop her acting chops. No such problem with newcomer Mian Dimacali, who is amazing as the larger-than-life performance artist Maureen Johnson.

If you’ve never seen Rent, now is a good time. This cast has its flaws but is quite impressive on the whole, and this director knows what he’s doing. And yes, Seasons of Love will get to you. Every time.

Joanne and Maureen: Jenny Villegas and Mian Dimacali bring the feistiness and fireworks.

* * *

Remaining show dates are Feb. 25, 26, 2, March 4, 5 and 6. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8 p.m. Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4:30 p.m. Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Corner Sen. Gil Puyat Avenues, Makati City. For tickets call 557-5860, 586-7105, or 0917-5545560, or visit, or call TicketWorld at 891-9999.

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