One of the most common phrases spoken in the entertainment industry would without a doubt be the classic, “The show must go on.” This was no exception for Rent: Live, which premiered Sunday, January 27th, on Fox. The show started as every other TV adapted musical put on by Fox, except this time the words “previously recorded” replaced the words “live” on the top corner of the TV. It was not until the first commercial break when the cast appeared and addressed what might be the biggest fiasco to ever hit a live TV musical. Just 24 hours prior to the live televised taping, male lead Roger, played by actor Brennin Hunt, broke his foot during the finale of the dress rehearsal. With no understudy for Roger, Fox decided to air the dress rehearsal and slightly alter Roger’s stage movement during the finale to accommodate for Hunt’s injury. This resulted in most of what was aired on TV to be pre-recorded, aside from the final scene and when the Original Broadway Cast joined the Rent: Live cast to perform Rent’s most famous song, Seasons of Love.
Fox is known for hand picking brilliantly talented performers to join their cast for their televised musicals, and this was no exception. The most widely known being Vanessa Hudgens, who is famously celebrated for her work both on screen and on stage, portraying Maureen Johnson. Another notable celebrity brought into the Rent: Live cast includes Miss Congeniality from season nine of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, Valentina, who played Angel Dumont Schunard. Even musicians joined the cast, including Mario and Tinashe, who played Benjamin Coffin III and Mimi Marquez, respectively. The list goes on and on, as even the ensemble was filled with many experienced and notable members. Even with the unfortunate events surrounding this production, viewers are incredibly lucky to see a Broadway level production from the comfort of their own couch.
Fox Broadcasting Co.
Rent: Live appeases such a wide audience, from musical enthusiasts to those who just simply like to be entertained. While the movie Rent is far more popular than the musical, Fox seems to have relied mainly on the stage production for inspiration behind their adaptation. Instead of having different stages in different locations set up for this live musical production, the Rent: Live team instead utilized what appeared to be a giant soundstage with one big stage in the middle, and smaller stages scattered around the warehouse looking arena. There was also plenty of crowd interaction and cheering, something that is definitely not a norm for any live production, NBC or Fox. While this may have been how it was intended to be, it has also been speculated that there was only crowd interactions due to the fact that it was just a dress rehearsal and was not meant to be televised. This did somewhat take away from the immersion factor, as sometimes the cheering covered the dialogue and singing. Overall it was not too big of a distraction, especially when one remembers the circumstances Fox was under. It is hard to criticize the show when most of it was never meant to be aired on television.
While the appearances of the Original Broadway Cast at the end of the production was no surprise due to the announcement made at the beginning of the show, it was heartwarming to see each Rent: Live character link up with the person who originated their role (especially when Adam Pascal, the original Roger, walked to the back of the stage to sing with the immobile Roger from Rent: Live). There were also many nods to the original stage show that any “Renthead” would have caught and taken delight in, even making them happy enough to forget all of the lyric changes needed to make the show suitable for television. All in all, Fox was able to put on an incredible show despite their huge setback happening just a day before the live production. Although Rent: Live turned out to be not so live, millions still tuned in to watch and will undoubtedly have the whole soundtrack stuck in their head for the next week. Viva La Vie Boheme!
If you missed Fox’s Rent: Live (or even if you just want to watch it a hundred more times), don’t fear! It has already been uploaded to the Fox website, and all you need is your login information for your cable provider before you can be jamming out with the brilliant cast. https://www.fox.com/watch/b6f3b4b5b8b20e28fb9763001bb4b079/