The only thing good to come out of “Rent Live! was a rejuvenation of my interest in the musical.
I was in 8th grade – around 2007 – when the show had already celebrated many accolades and a 10 year anniversary the year before. It was the perfect match to my angsty, teenage years of feeling discontent with my generation and the world around me.
I was also undiagnosed with Bipolar II depression, anxiety and other conditions at the time and not medicated. So while I was suffering and wondering why I acted and reacted the way I did the lyrics of Jonathan Larson’s musical struck a chord – especially the more dramatic moments, and (again) overtly angsty moments, like “Halloween,” “Goodbye Love,” “Will I?” – etc.
As I grew up and went to college and started studying arts criticism, I began to see flaws and the problematic elements of the musical and distanced myself from any nostalgia of it and advocating works I felt handled the AIDs crisis better like “Angels in America” and “The Normal Heart.”
I have a long list of issues with the book and the characters, but that’s not what this post is about.
After I saw Rent Live – sheerly based on being invited to a viewing party, hadn’t planned on watching it otherwise – I couldn’t help but feel a tug of nostalgia as it was the first time in years I had seen any professional production of the musical. However, I wasn’t nostalgic for the performances I was seeing (possibly with the exception of Brennin Hunt as Roger). I wanted to see what made me love the musical so much as a teen – even though I saw it on Broadway long after the OBC had departed. Still, this led me to seek out content on YouTube including low-quality press reels and other recordings of the original cast.
Watching them has definitely re-inspired nostalgia and has actually altered some of my criticisms (Daphne Reuben Vega’s Mimi is actually great and it doesn’t come across if you only listen to her on the soundtrack).
I still maintain my views about Rent as a problematic musical (and yes, if Jonathan Larson had not died it might have been less problematic final product), but it still worth celebrating the parts of it that do work and the original performers – who radically exceed expectations for anyone who has only seen the movie (not even going to get into that piece of… yeah) and the so-so recording of the Broadway show.