‘Rent Live’ and the Differing Opinions on it

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Jillian Thibodeau

On Sunday, January 27th the long awaited ‘Rent Live’ aired on Fox at 8 pm EST. The musical was publicized from Studio 16 at the Fox Studios in Los Angeles, California, and it ran for three hours straight. Although many people tuned in to watch and enjoyed the show, there is an agreement among fans that think the show could have been a lot better than it turned out to be.

Jonathan Larson

‘Rent’ is an original musical that made its off-broadway debut in January of 1996 and was moved to broadway in April of that same year. It was written by Jonathan Larson who loosely based it off of the Opera ‘La Bohéme’ by Giacomo Puccini. However, Larson wrote some of his own experiences into ‘Rent’ to make the show more personal. 

The musical tells the story of seven friends living in New York City in the early 1990s. It starts off on Christmas Eve and continues on for the whole year to come. The group deals with many problems throughout the entirety of the show, like poverty, HIV, drugs, and love. Not only this, but there is a great deal of diversity and the main characters are all different in one way or another. Mark is a Jewish filmmaker, Roger is a former rock musician, Mimi is an exotic dancer and drug addict, Collins is a gay philosophy teacher, Angel is a drag queen, Maureen is a bisexual performance artist, and Joanne is a lesbian lawyer. Not only this, but Roger and Mimi are dating and both have HIV, while Collins and Angel are dating and both have AIDS. Overall, the show has a moving story that is exciting at some parts and heart wrenching at others.

Brennin Hunt performing live in the last fifteen minutes of the show, with his broken foot.

Unfortunately, ‘Rent Live’ wasn’t actually live on the Fox Network. Once the first scene appeared on everyone’s television screens it said “previously recorded” and before the first commercial break the cast explained why. Brennin Hunt, who plays Roger in the ‘live’ rendition of ‘Rent’, broke his foot during the dress rehearsal that was held on Saturday night. So, they aired the pre-recorded footage from the dress rehearsal (before Hunt broke his foot). However, this was not the only thing going on while the pre-recorded footage was being aired on television. In fact, the cast of ‘Rent Live’ performed a concert with the Original Broadway cast, for those that had bought tickets to watch the show live. They sang songs from ‘Rent’  and just had a blast. Many videos from the concert were posted online and some say that they were better than the pre-recorded ones that were on television.

Finally, by the end of the three hours, the last scene of the entire show was live and included Hunt sitting down and singing with his foot propped up on a chair. Once the cast sang their last words “No day but today”, the show ended, and they gave a shout out to Jonathan Larson. Lastly, the Original Broadway cast came onto the stage and sang the popular song ‘Seasons of Love’ with the ‘Rent Live’ cast. Many really enjoyed this ending, like Junior, Kylie Robinshaw who stated that, “The live ending tied it all up and redeemed the show.”

Even though the end of the show was a common favorite by most that watched, there were still a few complaints about the show in general. Not only was the fact that the show was not live a huge downside to ‘Rent Live’, but many disliked how the audience clapped and cheered loudly in the middle of songs. At some points you couldn’t even hear the cast singing and only heard the audience. Some found it really distracting, like junior, Anthara Shivkumar. Shivkumar went as far to say that, “The live audience took away from the experience because they kept screaming in the middle of songs. It took away from the overall show.” 

Brandon Victor Dixon aka Collins singing the ‘I’ll Cover You Reprise’.

In my opinion, the good about ‘Rent Live’ outweighed the bad. The first thing that was great about the musical, was the cast. The cast consisted of many talented people, that includes Vanessa Hudgens, Valentina, Jordan Fisher, Tinashe, Brandon Victor Dixon, Kiersey Clemons, and Brennin Hunt. Each and every one of these celebrities brought something different to the table and added depth to their characters. Some, like Fisher did with Mark, even changed their characters’ image in a way. In the musical ‘Rent’, Mark is typically more nerdy, but Fisher made him more cool and collective. Not only this, but I feel like they brought justice to the original characters and it showed throughout the entire performance. Also, some may argue that the message wasn’t brought out in the ‘live’ version, but I thought that the cast did an amazing job doing that. An example of this is that during the song ‘I’ll Cover You (Reprise)’, I was in tears. Collins, who was played by Dixon, was the main voice of the song and his performance was heart wrenching. He sang about losing the one he loved and he had so much passion, it was absolutely one of the highlights of the show.

One part of the ‘Rent Live’ interactive stage.

Additionally, the show had such a huge and elaborate stage. There were different parts to it, it moved, and it even had different levels. Junior, Sydney Fournier thought that, “The interactive stage with different levels added depth to the show, it was different from a normal show.” To some, the stage looked like a set that you’d see in a movie, it was just so different than a normal stage. Equally important, Fournier said that, “It was nice to see it [Rent] redone and a little modernized.” Although some diehard ‘Rent’ fans may disagree with this statement, I do agree with Fournier’s statement.

All in all, ‘Rent’ is a beloved musical to many and people have so many different opinions on the ‘live’ version. Some were greatly disappointed that it wasn’t live and others just didn’t think that it lived up to it’s expectations. However, some people really enjoyed it, like myself, and thought that there were many great aspects to it. So, if you haven’t seen ‘Rent Live’ yet, you can stream it on fox.com anytime and share your opinions on it as well.