Sunday, January 27, 2019

Thoughts on RENT LIVE

Like I did with Jesus Christ Superstar Live, I'll share my thoughts about RENT Live as they happen. It only seems fitting that a live show gets a live response. Depending on how it goes, I'll come back a few days from now and add some reflective thoughts. Then again, maybe not - no day but today, right?

A few pre-show thoughts...

  • RENT is special to me for full-on theater geek reasons. I had the privilege of seeing the show within days of it opening, right before it became the sensation it is today.
  • The feeling of discovering an art form-changing work is something that reignites my passion for live theater. It is rare and to be savored.
  • Looking back on it, it is so amazing to know I saw so many great careers at their start. The cast was full of unknowns, who today are household names.
  • I know that to some this is blasphemy, but I love the movie version.

I'm looking forward to seeing this new generation tackle this piece - especially Vanessa Hudgens and Jordan Fisher. Here we go....


8:00 - The opening graphic of the Jonathan Larson quote was so present, it was humbling. I can't be the only one who got teary. And the goose flesh from head to toe during the opening number. Wow. Just wow.

8:11 - The chemistry between Angel and Tom Collins is palpable. Love them both and can't wait for "Santa Fe." Must read up on Valentina! And isn't Brandon Victor Dixon awesome in these things?

8:13 - I love how the camera spun around when Mimi sings about the room spinning during "Light my Candle."

FIRST COMMERCIAL: So far, so great. The filming is excellent and adds to the experience. And the casting (so far) is spot on. 

8:22 - Brava! "Today 4 U" was off the charts. Get Valentina on Broadway ASAP. (The drawback to these live events is, unfortunately, on display here, though. The screams of the audience often drown out the music and lyrics. I feel for those who don't have the show memorized...)

8:29 - Age appropriate parents for Joanne. A nice touch.

8:30 - I think I have a crush on Mark Jordan Fisher. "Tango Maureen" was such fun and the connection between him and Kiersey Clemons was awesome. "Pookie!"

SECOND COMMERCIAL: So far, this feels like the perfect joining of two mediums. Michael Greif's care with this is beautifully evident.

8:39 - The Life Support meetings always makes me cry. Keala Settle. She just makes everything better, right?

8:42 - "Out Tonight" Tinashe is a fierce presence (even if her breathing gets in the way when she's tired). Love how she transitioned from the Cat Scratch Club to Roger's apartment. (See 2nd Commercial note.)

8:45 - "Another Day" I'm really loving this. Brennin Hunt has an amazing voice, and the chemistry between Roger and Mimi is off the charts.

8:50 - "Will I?" Surely, this song is one of the saddest ever written for the stage. By having it all over the space, it shows the whole community in crisis. Sobering and devastating. The moment of silence before the black out was perfection. I wish I was there to hear it.

THIRD COMMERCIAL: I am breathing again. I haven't felt this connected to RENT since the first time I saw it in 1996. 

The time period factoids in voice over offer much needed context some 23 after the premiere. Where I am, they are showing ads for Truvada. Important and well-placed.

8:56 - Jennifer Leigh Warren. Nice. "Santa Fe" BVD and Valentina continue to amaze with their connection. And I loved the choreography by Sonya Tayeh.

9:01 - Oh. My. God. "I'll Cover You"!  Such joy. (I know I'll be a mess the next time that song happens.)

FOURTH COMMERCIAL: Time to find the Kleenex. Must be prepared.

9:09 - "We're Okay" Nice acting from Kiersey.

9:10 - "Christmas Bells" is one of my favorite numbers. This does not disappoint. Love the "cameo." Bryce Ryness is creepy AF! I love the junkies dancing, and the juxtaposition of the "fancy"Christmas lights over top the decay of the East Village. Vanessa Hudgens' entrance! And that tongue!?

FIFTH COMMERCIAL: I really am loving this. Purposely NOT on social media to hear what others are saying. I'm enjoying it completely on my own terms.

9:20 - I predict people will love or hate "Over the Moon." Either way, you can't say Vanessa didn't bring it. What a set of pipes!

9:27 - "La Vie Boheme" - a true do or die moment for this show. Mucho masturbation... well done, Fox! Lesbian kisses in close up. Take that, conservatives... Kudos to Mario for being a strong presence. "I Should Tell You" - Great, dramatic special effect. Beautiful.

Goose bumps.

SIXTH COMMERCIAL: They hinted at the start, that Act Two was being re-worked to accommodate Brennin Hunt's injury. Hoping the energy is off the charts!


9:43 - "Seasons of Love" is powerful as a community piece. Keala Settle does not disappoint.

9:47 - "Happy New Year" say what you want about Disney stars... but wow...

SEVENTH COMMERCIAL: I will say that I've always felt that the first few minutes after "Seasons of Love" always feel messy to me, and this production did not change that. There is one section that reminds me of Sondheim's influence on Larson - specifically, it reminds me of "Your Fault" from Into the Woods. Interesting, too, that this Maureen seems to be an influencer on one level, and a girl desperately chasing after being noticed.

9:59 - "Take Me Or Leave Me" That was intense. I can see why Vanessa got the job.

10:05 - "Without You" My favorite song of the whole score. Excellent staging that feels both theatrical and cinematic. BVD and Valentina wordlessly express so much.

EIGHTH COMMERCIAL: Need more tissues...

10:14 - "Contact" My jaw is still on the floor. They. Did. It. BRAVO!

10:20 - "I'll Cover You" Is this the definitive version?

NINTH COMMERCIAL: I am just sitting here... I'm crying noisily.

10:27 - "Halloween" Nice touch to have a flyer for the Moondance Diner on the phone booth.

10:29 - "Goodbye, Love" The lead up to the song - so much emotion... another messy moment in the score for me. But they are performing the hell out of it. And the song, too.

10:36 - "What You Own" I don't like the way this is staged. The audience takes me right out of the moment. Despite the audience intrusion, both Fisher and Hunt sing the hell out of this song. And the ending amazes.

TENTH COMMERCIAL: Am I the only one wondering when the point is that he broke his foot? It has to be coming up.

10:45 - Well that was my answer...

"Your Eyes/Finale" - The extra orchestration is lovely here.  It elevates the song and the moment. Hunt sings it gorgeously. His "Mimi!!!!" is a stunning guttural cry.

The ending... un-fucking-believeable... Jonathan Larson. Thank you.

10:56 - The Original Cast!!! So wonderful.

The orchestra did an amazing playoff.

Grade: A+


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