‘Rent’ gets a new lease on life

West End revives '90s musical

Jonathan Larson’s hit Broadway tuner “Rent” will return to the West End in the fall in a completely new version produced by Ambassador Theater Group, Tulbart Prods. and Michael Brenner. The revival begins previews Oct. 2 at the Duke of York’s Theater ahead of an Oct. 16 opening.

All previous presentations of the rock musical have reproduced the original Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Allan S. Gordon and New York Theater Workshop production, which is still running in Gotham at the Nederlander after more than 4,600 perfs.

The newly reworked, “contemporary” take on the tuner is conceived and directed by William Baker, best-known for inventing story-based concerts with pop artists including Kylie Minogue, whose brand he recreated.

“Because of Jonathan Larson’s untimely death at the first preview, the show has become frozen as a kind of sacred text,” Baker told Daily Variety. “It looked and sounded very much of its time. Audiences have changed since then, and I think it needed reappraising for a London audience.”

The original London production played a heavily discounted 18-month run plus two three-month sitdowns from the U.K. tour.

Baker describes his updated version as a “digital production for a digital world — more a pop opera than a rock opera.” The expected grunge-style electric guitar sound has been rejected in favor of each song being individually re-orchestrated according to each character.

“All great songs can always be remixed,” Baker said. “We’ve kept the vocal melodies, but the sound is completely different.”

Music supervisor will be Steve Anderson, with Mark Bailey designing, lighting by David Howe and sound by Sebastian Frost.

The cast includes a mix of music biz and legit talents including founding member of urban indie group Sugababes, Siobhan Donaghy, as Mimi. She will be joined by Luke Evans (Roger), Oliver Thornton (Mark), Leon Lopez (Collins), Jay Webb (Angel), Francesca Jackson Joanne) and Craig Stein Benny).

In a West End first, “Rent” will operate a general admission ticket policy similar to concerts. Tickets will be £30 ($61), allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, compared with £55 ($112) for top-price seats to rival tuners.

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