There is “no day but today” for a group of starving artists living in New York in Fox’s broadcast of “RENT: Live!” “RENT” is a play that presents music, book and lyrics by Jonathan Larson. The show is a rock musical loosely based off of Giacomo Puccini’s Opera “La Bohème” which follows a group of starving artists living in the days of the thriving Bohemian alphabet city under the dark shadow of the deadly HIV crisis.
Most recently, television station Fox aired a performance of “RENT” on Jan. 27, marketing the performance as “RENT Live!” However, the show was not aired live due to a mishap where an actor broke his foot during final dress rehearsal. The network decided to air a dress rehearsal instead.
Although this rehearsal still brought the beautiful story of “RENT” to people who may have never seen or heard of it, the prefilmed airing resulted in a show that lacked the energy and passion of a real production.
The casting for “RENT Live!” was a little hit or miss due to an attempt to draw appeal with the casting of celebrities into title roles. Some of these celebrities were suited for theater; others were definitely not. The biggest miss was the casting of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race: All Stars” contestant Valentina as Angel. Throughout the production, Valentina lacked Angel’s energy and vocal abilities, constantly performing off-pitch and lackluster versions of the iconic songs.
Vanessa Hudgens gave one of the best performances of the show as Maureen. She brought not only powerful vocals but also accurately captured the spirit of her character. Because Maureen, although a loud free spirit, is not supposed to be a spectacular performer, Vanessa was able to portray her character perfectly in “Over the Moon,” matching the energy of her famous predecessor Idina Menzel. Jorden Fisher also did a spectacular job capturing the awkwardness of Mark while putting a slight twist on the role with his R&B voice.
The ensemble for the most part did very well, sometimes even out shining the main cast. Out of the ensemble performers, Keala Settle really stood out. Settle was tasked with preforming one of the most famous solos in the show during “Seasons Of Love,” both at the end of act one and the finale. She hit the famous high note beautifully.
However, the highlight of the show was during the finale when the entire original cast of the Broadway musical came out for an incredibly emotional performance of the show’s anthem, “Seasons of love,” creating the perfect ensemble moment that was sure to bring any true fan to tears.
The tech for the show was expertly done with an elaborate set that was very versatile. Some of the props like the posters used for the protest were modeled after the posters created by Jonathan Larson when he was younger. The only real change that upset most die-hard fans came from the costume department and the absence of Mark’s iconic scarf, which has been a constant in every professional production since the original.
18.6 million people tuned in to what was essentially a broadcast dress rehearsal of a beautiful show that could have been handled better by the network. From its inconsistent casting to deciding to air a low energy dress rehearsal, Fox should have just postponed the show. People who enjoy “RENT” should check out the movie or taped 2008 performance, “Another Day.”