Rent Live! – A truly spectacular production bound to satisfy diehard Rentheads and introduce Jonathan Larson’s brilliant work to a new generation of fans.
Long before Hamilton, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, and Dear Evan Hansen were the hot tickets on Broadway, there was Rent.
Rent is a musical loved by millions, whether we’ve listened to the original Broadway cast 525,600 times and seen Chris Columbus’ movie adaptation double that, it’s a show fans can never get enough of.
Now, Fox has brought us Rent Live! and it’s phenomenal.
Jonathan Larson’s brilliant story about community, being there for one another, and reminding your loved ones that you care set against the stark reality of AIDS and HIV in 1990’s New York has been re-imagined for 2019 TV audiences and once again proves to be a masterful spectacular event.
Executive Produced by Marc Platt, Adam Siegel, Julie Larson, Al Larson, Vince Totino, Scott Hemming, and Marla Levine, Rent – for those of you who have never seen the show, or movie – tells the story of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams during a time of great social and political turmoil.
How do you find a new generation to take on musical’s most iconic roles? Jordan Fisher, Vanessa Hudgens, Brandon Victor Dixon, Tinashe, Valentina, Mario, Keala Settle, Kiersey Clemons, and Brennin Hunt come together and do they stop us dead in their tracks with their performances.
The show was all set to go live from Fox Studios in Los Angeles, except Brennan Hunt has rolled his ankle towards the end of the dress rehearsal. Turns out he had broken his foot, and so Rent Live! turned out to be Rent The Dress Rehearsal Live! Note, that didn’t stop this from being a terrible disaster at all. The show went on. TV audiences saw the dress rehearsal and yes, there were glitches and a serious injury to its lead actor, but we were still treated to a fine show.
A sound stage was converted into the gritty East Village where Rent is set. A mosh pit area and raised bleachers were filled to the brim with Rentheads so they could feel immersed in the production. Multi-level steel scaffolding set the scene for the apartment, a bar, and the city streets. The production design made us feel like we were in 90s New York among the rubble and graffiti.
Grease Live! and Hamilton alumni Jordan Fisher plays Mark Cohen and kicked off the spectacle with a bang and injects energy into the show that never fades. Fisher is thoroughly refreshing in Cohen, and the first person of color to play this role.
Brandon Victor Dixon last seen in Jesus Christ Superstar Live! is a treasure as Tom Collins. He is superb in everything he does and needs to be in every live production. Here he displays, once again his fine vocal chords, beautifully delivering his songs and is a shining star.
If you’ve never heard of Tinashe, after this, you will. The show’s most valuable player fills her performance with so much heart and emotion, breathes life into her performance of Out Tonight, working that upper-level scaffolding. The camera work here from director Michael Greif shines as he captures that energy of Mimi running through the city streets. She put her stamp on the role and owned it the entire evening.
Hudgens, of course, is no stranger to playing Maureen, again putting her own mark on the role made famous by Idina Menzel. “Over the Moon” was perfect and those vocals hit the mark where she needed to. Bravo Vanessa for giving Maureen her own sexy, feisty twist on the character. When she asks the audience to “Moo” you did.
Drag Race and All-Stars alum Valentina was fabulously flamboyant as Angel, beautiful performance and equally beautiful vocals. The audience went wild for Valentina and “Today 4 U” was another memorable highlight.
The casting was filled with double threats, great performances, incredible vocals. All bringing an emotional freshness to their scenes. And even though this was a “dress rehearsal” and not as “live performed on Sunday on TV day of” production, and vocals were being held back, the performances were still remarkable. One that is so diverse and should bring in a range and wealth of viewers.
Twenty Five years later, Rent Live! is back. A stellar masterful vision, on that Jonathan Larson, would be smiling down on. The diverse cast come together shining in their individual performances but also blend so beautifully harmonious and symphonic, music to the ears during the ensemble numbers “La Vie Boheme” and “Seasons of Love.” This passionate and energetic spectacle rocked from beginning to end.
Sonya Tayeh’s choreography was dazzling and electrifying, making full use of the stage and immersing 1300 + audience in with some of the pieces.
The biggest surprise and greatest treat was that ending!! That incredible rendition of “Seasons of Love” where the original members of the Broadway cast were brought out! Without a doubt the most emotional moment of the night and one that will please fans of the original musical!
Despite the big glitch (let’s have an understudy ready next time) Rent Live! reminds us that the story of community and hope is just as alive today and just as relevant and inspiring more than ever. Missed it? Seek it out. 525,600 minutes is now stuck in our heads and that’s ok. Rent Live! is not to be missed. In a word, despite everything – Rent Live! is and was outstanding. Hopefully, a new generation has discovered a much loved musical and is about to become obsessed with its soundtrack.