Belle's Domain

Rent needs no introduction. This amazing show was produced in london 1998 - 1999, however I didn't get the chance to see it before it closed, just as I discovered it. So I was thrilled when a UK tour was announced! And even more excited when a certain actor mentioned he was auditioning for Angel... then that he had GOT Angel... and so very disappointed when he told us he was not taking the role as he had another three months' contract to run! Silly boy didn't check that first, did he...

The UK tour of Rent had some brilliant cast members - familiar names from Starlight Express Mykal Rand, Niel Couperthwaite, and Jason Pennycooke all in lead roles, the gorgeous Debbie Kurup starring as Mimi. However the show couldn't run without "celebrity"- Adam Rickett, famous from a soap, whose acting was absolutely dire at the beginning of the run. He settled into the role over time, but was never really right for Mark. Rent has very strong characters, very definitely type-cast, which has advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it is easy to see that so-and-so would be a perfect "Roger". On the other hand, it's very easy to pick out the understudies in the ensemble!

The touring production had one of the best brochures I've ever seen. It is printed on matt card, and contains the photos below (except the Caprice photos, which come from the later program). While the production photos are excellent, they are interspersed with a curious collection of studio photographs of the Principals, plus Tom Kanavan and Helen York in place of Angel and Maureen.

The touring production was mounted originally February 2001 at the Leicester Haymarket, and proceeded to tour the UK throughout 2001, then they moved into the Prince of Wales theatre, London, december 2001- January 2002, closing only weeks after Starlight Express closed and Cats announced its final date. All in all, a poor time for West End hit shows! However the same production was revived in December 2002 - January 2003, with mostly the same cast. However, Adam Rickett was replaced by the frankly adorable Dougal Irvine as Mark.

Helen York from photoshoot
Wendy Mae Brown from photoshoot

During the first run of the show, the role of Maureen seemed very unlucky- Lucy Williamson was off sick often, leaving the role to be understudied by Jane Doyle and Helen York. By the time they moved to London, Lucy Williamson had to leave, and Helen York took over full-time. But then she also had to miss shows. Poor Maureen got even worse, by the time of the second West End run. The producers decided it was necessary to cast a celebrity in the production, and ended up with Caprice, the glamour model, as Maureen. Poor Caprice. She was very enthusiastic, and obviously loved Rent. However her acting ability is minimal, and her singing is far worse. Although she tried her best, she was absolutely abysmal, and the show was being sold as her star vehicle. Consequently the show got atrocious reviews and sold very poorly. The second west end stay was overall very shabby and under-funded, if they had not signed the amazing cast they had, it would have been a complete disaster.

As of september 2005, rumours are suggesting that the same production is to be rolled out again next year. However some work will be necessary - most of the costumes showed up on Ebay last year!

A very sweet post-script to this production: As of September 2005, Jason Pennycooke is currently starring in a BBC reality TV show, concerning men who are about to become fathers for the first time. It was on this production of Rent that Jason and Debbie Kurup fell in love, and they are now expecting their first baby!
BBC website

Roger Davis Damien Flood Mark Cohen Adam Rickett Dougal Irvine
Tom Collins Mykal Rand Benjamin Coffin III Jason Pennycooke
Joanne Jefferson Wendy Mae Brown Angel Dumott Schunard Neil Couperthwaite Mig Ayesa
Mimi Marquez Debbie Kurup (alternate: Krysten Cummings) Maureen Johnson Lucy Williamson/
Helen York
Mrs. Cohen & others Jane Doyle Carys Gray Mr. Jefferson & others Gilz Terera Rohan Reckord
Mrs Jefferson & others Tracy Kashi Ayo-Dale Ajana Paul & others Delroy Atkinson Jonas Jones
Waiter & others Tom Kanavan Mr. Grey & others Zeph Julian Essex-Spurrier
Alexi Darling & others Yildiz Hussein Swing Ayo-Dele Ajana Jaye Jacobs
Swing Daniel Boys David Hulston Swing Lee Waterworth Andy Mace

Helen York, Wendy Mae Brown, Debbie Kurup Jason Pennycooke Mykal Rand
Jason Pennycooke Tom Kanavan Photoshoot group - Mykal Rand, Tom Kanavan's head, Wendy Mae Brown, Debbie Kurup, Damien Flood, Helen York, Jason Pennycooke, Adam Rickett
Caprice - very glamourous Caprice with Damien Flood and Dougal Irvine