This rent is long overdue! 9Works Rent Manila 2024

At a glance

  • Rent is that rare instance when the second half of the musical is stronger than the first.

The cast of 'Rent'

Right before the Thursday preview night of 9Works new production of Rent at the RCBC Theater, producer Santi Santamaria and director Robbie Guevara took to the stage to say a few words. Mention was made of how Rent 2024 would be the 4th staging by Santi, and the funny thing is I’ve watched all three previous productions - starting in 2010. I was fearful that it would influence how I’d view this one - my remembering who had played such and such a character in the past and somehow comparing. Inevitable, as you have the likes of Gian Magdangal, Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Nicole Laurel-Asensio, Ciara Sotto, and OJ Mariano, to name a few, having taken on these roles. I even remember Ricci Chan from a 1999 staging. 

And so Yes, there is a little of that at the outset, and I actually envied those in the audience who would be watching Rent with fresh eyes and ears. But having said that, as the current cast hit their stride, it was easy to just sit back and enjoy this new version on its own terms. As Robbie Guevara mentioned, while previous incarnations would put AIDS/HIV in the backdrop, the intent this time was to put it front and center, in order to drive home the message that the virus still exists today, and that awareness is key. This is a Rent that’s long overdue; and it’s still an exhilarating ride, one that new audiences will be thoroughly engaged with. 

There were many in the ensemble cast that impressed, and made me smile at this latest reincarnation. But if I had to pick my favorites, I’d point to Reb Atadero as Mark, the Angel of Lance Reblando, Garrett Bolden as Tom Collins, and the Mimi of Thea Astley. 


Reb Atadero had the most clarity, and made it look effortless transitioning from song to speech and dialogue. That is a skill in itself, and because you disguise the effort, it’s often unnoticed or not commented on; and I’ll be the first to comment on Reb and his great work here, as he is the ‘guide’ to this Rent-world. 

Angel is the iconic role in Rent, so unless you’ve screwed up the casting, any production’s Angel will be an immediate audience favorite. So what makes Lance Reblando’s attack on the role distinct? I would say the physicality that’s injected into her portrayal of Angel. The first solo number establishes this, and it’s sustained to the ‘death scene’. I’ll leave you guessing as to how this is accomplished.

Boyfriend of Angel, Tom Collins (Garrett Bolden) is undoubtedly the ‘voice’ of this production. His deep tenor and how he sustains notes with no strain are testaments to our budding talent. I’d love to see Bolden take on other roles in the near future and prove how his acting can match the singing as well. Despite his bulk, he seemed light on his feet, so I’d like to see his triple-threat potential uncovered. 


Mimi (Thea Astley) seemed tentative when belting her signature song, Out Tonight, but to her credit, she vastly improved and gained confidence throughout the night. Her duets and songs further on in the show were spot on and resonated. I liked how she delivered the notes and hit on the emotions carried by the lyrics. So, she’s my fourth standout of the night. 

Rent is that rare instance when the second half of the musical is stronger than the first. In the case of this production, it was dress rehearsal night when I watched, so there were minor sound problems and technical issues during the first half. Hopefully, they’ll be corrected as the regular run starts. It’s at the RCBC Theater for seven weekends, with shows on Friday (8 p.m.) and Saturday and Sunday (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.). 

So, it would be hyperbole to say there are 525,600 reasons to love this 2024 Rent, but I can confidently say there are enough reasons to call this a winning production.