ONS: The Rent Manila ’99/’01 Reunion
Sixteen years ago, Rent exploded in the Manila theatre scene thanks to the combined efforts of New Voice Company and Atlantis Productions. It is a production of immense sentimental value for those who got to see it. Like its Broadway counterpart, the local Rent had its own “Rentheads,” fans who watched the show over, and over, and over, and over, and over again, so much so that lasting friendships were formed thanks to a mutual love of the show and its cast.
I was one of those Rentheads half my life ago. To say that Rent was an important reason I love theatre is a great understatement.
Thus, it was with unhinged (and very biased) delight that I got to inform the Manila Rentheads that One Night Stand (ONS) announced a reunion concert of the ’99 cast that we loved so much. We immediately made plans (some unfortunately having to send regrets) to meet and catch up at the cabaret-concert. What we expected was a fun look back to old times.
What I personally got instead was arguably the best concert a local Rent fan can ask for.
Where to begin?
Do I begin with the staging of Ricci Chan, where you had Rachel Alejandro and Ampy Sietereales reprise the role of Mimi in 12 Monkeys, completely slaying their rendition of “Out Tonight” with matching bar dance and two-part harmony?
Or the surge of emotion seeing London-based original cast member Ariel Reonal open the haunting lines of “Will I?” with a recording from the august surroundings of the Prince Edward Theatre?
How about JM Rodriguez and Chan leading the cast and bar patrons into a raucous sing-a-long of “La Vie Boheme”, reinvigorating the crowd with an intermission number that needed to be celebrated with wine and beer?
Then there’s the singularly sweet-but-not-saccharine “I’ll Cover You” that is devastatingly reprised by Michael de Mesa?
Should we talk about Lynn Sherman’s ripping alto battering itself against Alejandro’s soprano challenge with their inspired rendition of “Take Me or Leave Me”?
The tremendous appreciation for “Seasons of Love”, leaving many in the audience crying with the memory of a show that had changed lives by being the right show at the right time?
It goes on and on, a night of many high moments, lovely moments, reminding us of times when the Philippine theatre scene pulsed wildly, floored at the opportunity to bring a modern contemporary musical to life.
Thus, now the organisers of ONS have a problem: after a night of superlatives, where does one go now? How do you top a concert that drew so much on local theatre history that the reunion concert has become a small moment of history itself?
The cabaret series will begin the New Year with a look at Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Hart. This might be a letdown for the younger set of theatre fans. Who still listens to classic American musical theatre?
If anything, the Rent reunion makes a compelling argument: the past is laced with rich memories—memories that have become accessible to the younger set, who, if the speculative math is to be believed, mostly were 10 years old or younger when the Manila run first began.
It depends on who activates them. Let’s see what memories ONS plans to activate next.
Poster c/o ONS. Used with permission.