Listen. I’m a textbook theater kid, okay. I’ve done just about everything a theater person can possibly do: ushering, costuming, running crew, band, soundboard, ensemble, lead.
Weird flex, I know. It’s just to establish my credibility, nothing to get excited about.
Point is, I know a good musical when I see one. Personal favorite’s gonna be a hard three-way tie between Cats: The Musical, Sunday in the Park with George, and Amelie but if I had to choose, you could pluck Amelie with Philippa Soo right out of my cremated ashes. Something about a quirky girl with bangs and glasses just speaks to me, y’know?
Anyway. Had enough credibility establishment? Let’s talk RENT Live.
I remember sitting down to watch Sound of Music Live with Carrie Underwood and I remember feeling utterly betrayed. I remember going into Grease! Live with considerably lower standards and being reasonably less devastated but still disappointed. So when I heard about RENT Live naturally my standards were about as low as the Tech female-to-male ratio.
But friends, I gotta say, it wasn’t a mistake. Low expectations mean you’ll never be disappointed.
Sure, almost none of the ensemble knew what being in the vicinity of on key felt like. And sure, the stage looked like it had been designed with a Rubix cube in the next room and was about half as comprehensible. And sure maybe they should have found a drag queen who was even marginally willing to sing.
But damn it if Jordan Fisher didn’t absolutely nail Mark. Heck, he made me like Mark and you’re not supposed to. And what about Vanessa Hudgens? I wasn’t expecting her to do well and she blew Maureen right out of the park. And let’s talk about Kiersey Clemons as Joanne because hand to heart, I looked forward to every minute she was onstage.
Sure, the woman they chose to hit the high note in “Seasons of Love” literally made me scrunch up in the fetal position out of secondhand embarrassment (imagine screwing up that badly standing next to Idina Menzel, I mean honestly) but it could’ve been worse––they could’ve nixed that note like they nixed the one in Collins’ last solo.
Truly, every actor who plays Collins must be the best singer in the cast, like it has to be in the contract or something. And every actress who plays Mimi must get under my skin just a little bit. No shade to Rosaria Dawson, but her Mimi ruined Mimi for me; lucky for her, Tinashe came in clutch this time and played her more sassy than coquettish or I’d have really, honestly left my living room.
Then there’s the whole drama with Brennin Hunt’s ankle or foot or something breaking mid-costume change. Listen, here’s my thing: if you and the entire cast knows you have a quick change, why are the costumers down seventeen flights of stairs through three feet of snow uphill both ways? Why aren’t they right offstage ready to go? Amateur hour. When I was in the war, we’d have twenty-three seconds to change out of an entire three-piece outfit, including rollerskates. Figure it out.
Props (heh) to Brennin on powering through but also not props to Brennin because his name is Brennin and really, that drives me crazy. Normally I wouldn’t make fun of somebody’s name but Brennin’s X Factor audition makes him look like a degenerate self-centered pretty boy so I’m not inclined to niceties.
Long story short, RENT Live was okay and all the hate you might see for it is just ignorant. These people did their best and if you really expected it to be quality, you probably shouldn’t be watching a live musical that was made for TV. That’s like getting all up in arms and hot ‘n bothered because a Lifetime movie didn’t get nominated for an Oscar.
But I swear, if they try this stunt with Hamilton, and I know they will, I will march on the Capitol.