Rent Live....Not Truly Live

Rent Live premiered on the Fox network on January 27, 2019. For those who do not know the story of Rent, it is a rock musical created by Jonathan Larson. He created the piece loosely based on the challenges he faced in New York City during the eighties and nineties. Sadly, he died at thirty-five, unable to see his vision for Rent come true. But his legacy lives on with the amazing music he created and fans because of his work. The story of Rent follows the life of Mark, a struggling filmmaker, and his roommate, Roger Davis, a former musician, as they navigate the struggles of living in New York City at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic with their friends Collins, Angel, Maureen, Joanne, and Mimi. Since its inception, it has garnered many fans that call themselves “rent heads” and has become a great career move for many Broadway legends, such as Jesse L. Martin, Anthony Rapp, Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs, and Adam Pascal, just to name a few. Each actor established a name for themselves because of their powerful performance as the original Broadway cast.

Since this show has become meaningful to so many people through the years, many, including myself, were ready to see a rendition of this production. But, there was one major problem. It was not live. By the time the first commercial had aired, the cast had announced that what the viewers were watching was a performance that was previously recorded on Saturday. One of the fellow cast members, Brennin Hunt, who was playing Roger Davis, one of the major characters in the production, had broken his foot the night before the broadcast. Instead of getting an understudy for his character, Fox proceeded to air a performance that was not at all live until the very end. Aside from the struggle of not having an understudy and not giving the audience the live show they were looking forward to, there were many other aspects of the production that were disappointing for many Broadway musical fans. In cases of injury, the show normally “must go on” with someone who has learned the part and is ready to perform.

Since this is usually the case, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that there was no one to take Hunt’s place in the performance, especially since so many people were ready for the piece to be live. I’m aware that an injury can be a major obstacle for an entire cast, but I commend Vanessa Hudgens for performing as Rizzo in Grease Live when her father passed away the night before. I didn’t expect Hunt to perform with a broken foot, but an understudy would’ve been a great alternative. One of the other major problems that audiences noticed was the sound quality. Yes, the band added the necessary music for the lyrics to have a beat, but the audio was so incredibly loud that it was impossible to hear the actors and actresses sing. It was also great to know that there was, in fact, a live audience, but at the end of the day, it’s still a form of Broadway, and not a concert. There was no need to cue cheering as often as they did during the singing. This critique of the performance may be harsh, but I am happy that I watched the entire show. I was so excited when "Seasons Of Love" (an iconic song) ended the show, and along with this cast, the original cast members of the Broadway musical showed up alongside the new actors who played the parts they did all those years ago. My heart swelled with joy!

Whether you thought that this was a bad production or a good production, it always is refreshing to see Broadway classics renewed for another, younger generation who can appreciate it just as much as the generation who saw it unfold in real time.