RENT Manila 2010 Review

UPDATE: [RENT The Musical in Manila 2011 Contest] How Did you Measure Your Life in 2010?

Related Blog Post: Manila’s Essential Guide to Rent The Musical

It was a good show last night with awesome performances from Carla Guevara-Laforteza as Maureen and newcomer Job Bautista as Angel Dumott Schunard. Maureen’s Over the Moon performance was very memorable, especially when she encouraged the crowd to MOO with her (with her facial expression resembling that of a person suffering from loose bowel movement). Angel’s performance was “orgasmic” and he assumed the role like a theater veteran. His chemistry with OJ Mariano as Tom Collins was an instant hit with the audience because it was very believable.

The ensemble cast did a great job as well. Our favorite was Johann Dela Fuente’s “Honest Living” scene. We also liked Raul Montesa, Gary Junsay and Mark Tayag’s various mini-skits throughout the play. Well done, guys!

The two-storey Rent set was impressive, and I would argue it is a lot better than the previous Rent sets. It was obvious though that the cast did not have much time practicing with the actual set, so they need to improve their blockings for the opening night on Friday.

It was a tough crowd last night, with every media outfit represented at the show, plus RENT fanatics who have watched the play more than once (even as much as six times!). Some were disappointed because the cast lacked energy and was not able to engage the crowd immediately. Some of the cast members were singing songs from the heart, but seemingly without any context or angst of a desperate artist or a person with HIV.

Specifically, I think Mark Cohen was not really able to connect with the audience in the opening scene. His face was a bit blank and he was singing through the lyrics of the songs like it was a concert. He needs to grow into the role and really immerse himself in the angst of the ’90s. In short, walang angas.

Mimi Márquez, played by Nicole Asensio, was lustfully sexy — I think she is the sexiest Mimi among those who played it before in Manila. However, she really had no chemistry with Roger Davis, as played by Gian Magdangal. They appeared to be like two people in love, but without the soul or passion of a person truly in love — it was not believable. The buzz was that Gian’s special someone, Sheree, was watching the show that night. If you look at her, she looks exactly like Mimi (with the curly hair and sexy outfit).

Here is a clip from the RENT Press Preview last night:

So, is it worth watching the show? How does it compare with previous Rent shows?

A Maven Secrets friend who watched the show more than six times (he would watch it every time there is a new cast) said, it fails in comparison to previous RENT shows.

For me, it is just a question of time before Fred Lo really owns the role of Mark Cohen, just like how JM Rodriguez did 10 years ago or maybe even better. Also, the key to Rent 2010’s success is Roger and Mimi’s believable, passionate and romantic love story that really connects with the audience. We need to feel the love, the angst of being in love (in this case, with a junkie), and the sorrow of losing someone you love to a dreaded disease.

For those who are watching it for the first time, it is highly recommended! For those RENT fanatics out there, better watch it during the last RENT shows on Feb. 28 and 29.

I’m watching it again this coming Saturday. I’m absolutely excited to see Carla’s MOO performance, the La Vie Boheme scene and the gay churva of Angel! 

Live an Awesome Life, 


Anton Diaz
Founder and Digital Publisher

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P.S. Please post your own reviews of RENT in the comments section. Rent Manila opens on February 5, Friday!

36 thoughts on “RENT Manila 2010 Review

  1. man, I was hoping this was gonna be good. I loved it when I saw it on Broadway in NY, it was so passionate and intense and fun all at the same time. It’s all about the actors, and maybe you’re right, they need practice. But they really need to step up unless they wanna be compared over and over again to past legacies.

  2. Here’s hoping the aforementioned hitches are merely due to first time jitters and that the actors concerned will step up to the plate right away, if not sooner. I guess it is to the seeming disadvantage of the current cast that they have quite big shoes to fill and a whole lot more of discerning local Rentheads to please. Plus the fact that previous productions hereabouts left behind such a daunting benchmark which the current crop will have to inadvertently strive to live up to and even exceed. At any rate, I am so looking forward to having my Rent fix this Saturday. Thanks a lot once again for the complimentary tickets, Anton!

  3. Well, I bought tickets to this show, I just hope the more improved version would be nicer than previous ones even if this is the first time I’m watching it live. (I only watch em on tv and youtube) i might get awed by IT being a play rather that IT being a better version of the previous ones since I have no comparisons… and I’ll stay in the back since I want to hear and see people’s reaction to it… anyway, I just hope I don’t end up disappointed because I practically know how bad acting is…. we’re all pros at that LOL

  4. I’m selling my Feb 26 (friday 8pm) tickets because I’m already watching this Sunday.
    2 balcony seats. First row, middle.

  5. i would have to agree w/ you mr anton.
    i was there last night too. roger & mimi’s performance fell a bit short of my expectation.
    good thing angel, collins, maureen brought it on!
    honest living, honest living, honest living!:)

  6. Best and Most Honest
    review Anton ever wrote.
    kudos, bro.
    I do hope the actors get under
    the skin of their characters in the coming weeks.
    RENT is just too good a play to sink into mediocrity.

  7. It was an overall okay experience. Some things though – very disappointed with the actor who did Roger. He can sing, but I didn’t feel any angst or emotions there. Nada. The actress who played Mimi was okay. I felt she owned the character and delivered it her own way. 🙂 The actress who played Maureen was AWESOME. Too bad Joanne didn’t deliver her part very well. Her character had so many points wherein she could’ve endeared the audience, and I distinctly remember parts where, if delivered correctly, could’ve made the audience laugh, but there were no reactions at all. I wonder how the character would’ve fared if played by Ring Antonio…
    I’m watching again on the 27th. Hope to be satisfied then! I love this show too much.

  8. Oh btw, the actor who did Mark was okay when I saw the show. Probably improved since press night. 🙂
    Job Bautista looks a lot like Draco Malfoy in some scenes!

  9. Yeah great to hear that. I watched last Saturday and most of the performances are much improved than the press night. 
    Si Roger na lang still blank and a bit self-conscious pa rin yung face.

  10. I watched the Opening Matinee last Saturday and yes I do agree with you. The cast lacks energy especially on numbers like La Vie Boheme.
    They really need to be more energetic and play their roles by heart.
    Yun lang 🙂

  11. I agree. My partner and I adore RENT so much, though, this is the first time we got to watch it on stage. We have, however, memorized all the songs to the musical, and every move in the movie.
    Needless to say, we were disappointed with the performances of Mimi and Roger the most.
    We can’t believe Roger forgot one line while singing “Another Day”, and fell out of beat during most of the slow songs (especially during “One Song Glory”).
    We do, still, give kudos to the entire cast and crew, because when they perform together (like during the last parts of “Christmas Bells”, “La Vie Boheme”, and “Seasons of Love”, those where the times when they build up their energy and is able to interact more with the audience through their facial expressions.
    2 Thumbs Up to the performances of Maureen (very good personalization of the character and awesome, awesome voice), as well as to Mark, who was able to portray Anthony Rapp’s character very well (although, he forgot to wear his glasses during the first part of the 2nd act).
    I’m still thinking if my Partner and I should watch the last performance, just to see if they’ll all improve.

  12. First of all, it was a pleasure for me and my wife Joyce to have finally met you and Rache in the flesh that night after years of avidly reading your blog. And as promised, here is my two cents’ worth on the show.
    Biases be damned, I have to underscore my sentiment that overall it was an enjoyable experience – it is after all Rent up close and personal to this avowed Renthead. Never mind if I have seen better. Even way up in the balcony section, one can’t help but feel the palpable exuberance of the show’s determination to showcase the soul of its premise – in a nutshell, the triumphs and pathos of seemingly doomed bohemian artists struggling to eke out a gratifying existence while they still can in “center of the universe” New York City circa 90’s with AIDS and all. This is further bolstered by the fact that the current cast members are generally good musicality-wise.
    But did they really deliver the goods? Yes and no.
    For the newbie who is watching Rent on stage for the first time sans any exposure to the movie version, this production is commendable enough to instill a possible fixation with anything Jonathan Larson. But honestly speaking, as much as I tried watching this restaging with all the objectivity I can muster (a really tall order – more so after reading your above review), I still can’t help but feel a bit shortchanged come curtain call. From the time we came in about 30 minutes late (no thanks to an unfortunate conflict with an earlier commitment) till the ensemble’s final bow, both my wife and I felt somewhat unsettled in our seats all throughout waiting with somewhat bated breath for that indisputable “wow that was so worth the ticket price” moment. Think Bituin Escalante’s jaw-dropping Seasons Of Love solo turn or even Michael de Mesa’s I Will Cover You elegy in the landmark local staging helmed by Bobby Garcia a decade ago. There were some admirable attempts – Carla Guevara-Laforteza as Maureen Johnson doing Over The Moon being one of them (Idina Menzel would have given her a thumbs up)- but somehow they fell short of making the grade as a classic local Rent moment in my book.
    But no doubt a star was born in Job Bautista’s simply fantastic turn as drag queen with a heart of gold Angel Dumott Schunard. And this is his first foray into professional stage acting? He could have fooled me – the guy practically ran away with the show! He was in fact so good that my wife and I were later on debating if he really is gay! Especially during the scene depicting his surreal crossing over to the afterlife – all that writhing atop the table sans drag and makeup inadvertently gave the audience a peek of the modest six-pack abs on his lithe frame, or at least according to my wife (for me to feel a wee bit of jealousy for a split second there means Job well deserves my applause – go figure).
    OJ Mariano was at his best as a grieving Tom Collins – his heart-wrenching expression of masculine sorrow upon losing his beloved Angel is so downright moving. That and their earlier scenes together made their chemistry so believable that it inexplicably gave me chills every now and then!
    You were spot on with Fredison Lo as Mark Cohen – the guy can sing but he couldn’t connect with me. The lack of eye contact with the audience perhaps? Such a letdown being the lead character cum supposed storyteller, but he still has about three weeks more to shape up. Hopefully so.
    Ditto with Gian Magdangal as Roger Davis. I had rather high expectation after rooting for him to top Philippine idol a few years ago and eventually lauding his runner-up finish. The guy has got some great pipes, but his shortcomings as a hammy actor somewhat wasted his opportunities to shine as a supposedly lovestruck yet reluctant lover to Nicole Asensio’s occasionally lusty Mimi Márquez. As for the latter, her supposedly pivotal death scene leaves much to be desired, among others. For both to be clearly upstaged by a gay couple’s portrayal of love and loss is an immense shame indeed.
    But the other gay couple in this play most certainly did not fare as well – Jenny Villegas as Joanne Jefferson was oh so lackadaisical (made even more glaring by the fact that Carla got her Maureen portrayal down pat). I was not so smitten with Tracie Thoms tackling the role in the movie version, but even that was good enough to make hers the standard for a feisty portrayal of a jealousy-prone lesbian lawyer in love with a flirty bisexual performance artist. Jenny’s delineation was stiff, plain and simple.
    Fortunately the ensemble members are quite impressive in their own right, but regrettably not enough to fill in for the mentioned lead players’ inadequacies.
    The musicians are undoubtedly capable, but I have to agree with one other commenter here that the music should have been played with a more pronounced and edgy tonality. The fact that I was watching from the balcony is no excuse – the music should resonate in every nook and cranny of the theater the way it was meant to be.
    On a lesser note, my wife intimated that if she was not familiar already with the plot, she wouldn’t have gotten the gist soon enough from the way the staging unfolded. Methinks there’s a lapse in storytelling there which is apparently a directorial flaw.
    At any rate, my wife and I are grateful to have watched the show for free. Before winning the blog contest, we were actually planning to buy tickets to the tail end presentation when most of the kinks should have already been ironed out. But it is just as well – at least I can still say with certainty at this point that the benchmark of the local staging of Rent rightfully belongs hands down to that glorious era when it was under the helm of Bobby Garcia (also at a time when I was inarguably more bohemian).

  13. Wow! very well written with very detailed observations. Watching it for the second time, gives me hope that at the end of 3 weeks it would be a lot lot better show. I think Gian Magdangal's performance is really the missing link. He is self-conscious and sometimes some audience would caught him looking at the audience for a moment escaping from the Bohemian Scene. Fred Lo's Mark improved from the press night and he believe he would really get into the role soon.
    Jenny's Joanne was overshadowed by Carla's performance, everyone is wondering what if Ring Antonio or another woman performs that role. Carla was too good that is why we are fans of all her performances here in Manila 🙂 We are also now a fan of Job Bautista and Nicole Asensio — both newbies in theater but we will watch musical shows specially if they are in the cast.
    Thanks for this review-ala-blog post. Very very helpful specially for Rentheads out there.

  14. Hi Gem,
    I'm hoping Gian's performance drastically improves. I'm not sure what's his hang-up with the role of Roger. Maybe, all our comments about his performance in Rent could stir that angst inspire of him of a struggling musician. There is one thing about getting the lead role and earning the right to perform that role. 
    Thanks for the comments and your own review 🙂

  15. This production is painfully weak. Weak singing and even weaker acting. None of the relationships between the characters that made the show close to our hearts felt authentic. There was no connection between anyone in the entire cast.

  16. hi! i watched the 4pm show today and i really liked it… I loved their “I’ll cover you (reprised)” among the songs… 🙂
    The one who played Collins’ and Maureen’s part were the best!:P

  17. hey anton,
    i will be watching rent the first time on the 26th. i have read all your posts about rent and as you said for first timers recommended diba? 🙂

  18. Hi! I watched RENT last Friday night Ü This is my 1st time to watch RENT, or any broadway musical for that matter. Overall, I enjoyed the show and the experience, though I’m sorry to report that Gian has still not improved. My cousin and I also noticed that there was something missing from him. He was too self-conscious and seemed very much awkward. We just thought that he may just be not feeling well that night, but after reading your review and the other comments, ganun pala tlga sya from the start. Sayang coz the others were really good especially the actor who played Angel. In spite of these few glitches, I think I will see this play again if ever it will run again here in the Phils with a new cast. 🙂

  19. ‘but seemingly without any context or angst of a desperate artist or a person with HIV’ — Well said! I’m a super duper RENThead (I have “no day but today” tattooed on me) and I’m a LGBT and hiv/aids activist. Even if I was too young then that I missed the earlier RENT production, I could say that the performance was, overall, lackluster with the exception of “Over the Moon”, “Take Me or Leave Me”, “Contact” and “I’ll Cover You”. I don’t think that some of the actors actually understood what it’s like being outcasts, struggling and queer. However, I still watched it every week during its run. RENT is RENT.

  20. Hi, anton – just wanted to check if kids are allowed? My 6 year old daughter loves the movie, but when I watched the videos of the local re-staging, seems like choreo is a bit more suggestive.

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