Last Night’s RENT

September 26, 2008

I was in middle school in 1996 when RENT opened on Broadway. I was singing with the children’s chorus at the time and the high school group did this whole Broadway medley that included “Seasons of Love.” Which I of course thought was awesome.  But by the time I was in drama in high school the craze and phenomenon was over.  It was just another show that was on and we were more excited about the new shows like Jekyll and Hyde and Ragtime and Titanic.  When I was in college the tour came by Tampa and a bunch of the theatre folks went in a group together, but I missed out on that.  So the first time I saw the songs in context was the 2005 movie.  Then the tour came to Tallahassee about a year and a half ago and my friend and I went see it.  It was in the civic center and we were defiantly in the cheap seats.  We were farrrrrrr from that stage.  I am such a Broadway fan when I heard about the showing of the final Broadway cast and performance was a opportunity I could not miss.  It’s such a rare thing to have access to a recording of a Broadway show.

So what did I think of “the Rent movie that doesn’t suck” as one blogger says.  First this is something that producers defiantly need to do again.  I hope they made enough money to justify it.  Tallahassee was a little sparsely attended.  The performances of course are sublime and sounding so much like the original cast by the way.  The crowd noise was fun too as they cheered all the actor’s entrances and most of the songs.  And getting to see the production at the Nerderlander, that’s priceless.  But I hope that they’ll learn from some of the mistakes.

Almost from the beginning it was clear that the camera was right there on the stage because of the extreme close-ups and I later found that this was actually a composite of footage from an earlier performance with the closing night footage.  Well I don’t feel so bad for the live audience, but I then felt a little duped.  I found the camera work frantic at times and the editing to be suspect.  Even in duets the camera would flip back and forth between the actors.  There were these odd close-ups of Rodger and Mimi’s backsides during “Light my Candle.”  I think the one song that I appreciated the in-your-face-ness was “One Song Glory,” a monologue song in spotlight.  But even that was unfortunate for Will Chase the actor playing Roger who is 38 years old.  Not that he’s bad looking he’s just obviously older than his cast mates and is playing a 23 year old(ish) character.  And “Contact” looks like a music video with all of the cuts.

At the end of the show many of the original cast members came on stage for an encore of “Seasons of Love” minus Adam Pascal, Idina Mendzel and Taye Diggs.  Too bad, but we can see Taye on Private Practice every week and Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp will be touring with the show in 2009.  Another thing that I appreciated was the great! sound quality.  It really showed me how much the civic center eats the mix.  You have to turn the sound so high that you miss the subtle things, especially in the songs with counterpoint.  I love actually being able to tell what everyone was saying all of the time.

Over all this reminded me why everyone loves RENT.  I think that lots of people can write a heart breaking song or two, but to have 10 couched in between recitative that actually sounds like words people might say, is emotionally deep, and has a lovely melody.  That takes a special author.  Jonathan Larson was a genius.  Granted there are moments that don’t feel period enough yet to not be a bit clique, but I think that will fade with time.  Man, I got out of the theatre thinking how much I’d like to direct it.  Now I’ll be able to.

It’s not too late to see it; the last showings are Saturday and Sunday at noon.

Here’s to RENT, we were the lucky ones!

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