William Baker, long-time collaborator of Kylie Minogue, is directing a new version of the musical Rent, which opens at the Duke Of York’s on 16 October (previews from 2 October) with a cast including former Sugababe Siobhan Donaghy.
Baker and music supervisor Steve Anderson have reorchestrated and reworked Jonathan Larson’s 1996 musical Rent to create a contemporary version for the 21st century. Based on Puccini’s opera La Bohème, the original version of Rent was set in the early 1990s and the story centred on a group of young New Yorkers as they struggled to fulfil their aspirations against a tide of grim reality. The musical first opened at the New York Theatre Workshop in 1996, receiving its London premiere at the Shaftesbury theatre in 1998. It returned to the West End in 2001 starring Adam Rickitt and again in 2002 with model Caprice.
As well as his work with Minogue, including producing many of her shows and creating the imagery that surrounds her, Baker has also lent his talents to the likes of Westlife, Jay Kay, Shirley Manson, Bjork, PJ Harvey and Geri Halliwell. Anderson is also a frequent collaborator with Minogue, having been musical director of all her tours and appearances since 1997. He has also worked with talents including Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Janet Jackson, Sting and Paul McCartney.
Donaghy, who was a founding member of the pop band Sugababes, makes her West End stage debut in this production playing Mimi. She is joined in the cast by Luke Evans (Roger) whose credits include the lead in Boy George’s Taboo, Miss Saigon and Avenue Q and Leon Lopez (Collins), who is known for his roles in television soaps Hollyoaks In The City and Brookside. The cast also includes Oliver Thornton (Mark), Jay Webb (Angel), Francesca Jackson (Joanne) and Craig Stein (Benny), plus Ruth Augilera, Jamie Sampson, Antony Luperi, Earl Perkins, Lewis Griffiths and Philippa Stefani.
In an unusual move for West End theatre, the show will be priced in a similar fashion to gigs and concerts, with all tickets at £30, sold on a first come, first served basis. Howard Panter, Joint Chief Executive of the Ambassador Theatre Group, which produces Rent, commented: “This is a musical about young people and for young people. We have therefore chosen what we believe to be an appropriate new ticket policy which young people are using and understand.”