RENT: Live!

The Show Must Go On!

RENT: Live!

What do you think of when you hear the word “rent?” Do you instantly find yourself asking if you remembered to pay your rent for the month, or do you think of the hit 1996 rock musical? In this case, I am talking about the 1996 musical. For all those Rentfanatics out there, perhaps you were able to watch the 2019 live edition of the musical on Fox which aired back on January 27, 2019. The live musical had a very talented cast and made fans show off a big smile from ear to ear.


As stated above, Rent went live on Fox January 27. Putting on the musical itself would be considered stressful, but airing the musical on live television with millions of people watching, would make it seem even more stressful. There have been numerous live renditions of plays, films, and musicals. Some of the most popular musicals we have seen on live television over the past few years included Peter Pan: Live, The Sound of Music: Live,The Wiz: Live, Hairspray: Live, Grease: Live, etcetera. Putting on live renditions of beloved musicals can be very stressful for the performers because hours upon hours of work and rehearsing go into it all. Just one slip or a forgotten line could instantly spell disaster for the live production.


Overall, Rent is a rock musical with music, lyrics, and book by Johnathan Larson, but it is also loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in Lower Manhattan‘s East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. The musical was first seen in 1993 in a workshop production at a New York Theatre Workshop. This same Off-Broadway theatre was also the musical’s initial home following its official 1996 opening. The show’s creator, Jonathan Larson, died suddenly of an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, the night before the Off-Broadway premiere. The success of the show led to several national tours and numerous foreign productions. A motion picture of the musical was adapted in 2005 which featured a majority of the original cast members.


The live rendition featured a super talented cast with members including Vanessa Hudgens, Jordan Fisher, Brennin Hunt, Brandon Victor Dixon, Tinashe, Kiersey Clemons, and many more recognizable faces. In the opening scene, it is Christmas Eve in Manhattan’s East Village. Two roommates, Mark Cohen (Fisher), a filmmaker, and Roger Davis (Hunt), a rock musician, are struggling to stay warm and produce their art. Mark’s mother then leaves him a voicemail wishing him a merry Christmas and trying to comfort him since his ex-girlfriend, Maureen, had just recently dumped him. All throughout the entire production, we hear some notable and familiar songs including “Light My Candle,” “Today 4 U,” “On the Street,” “Goodbye Love,” and other songs that have made this musical very popular.


However, during a dress rehearsal on January 26, one night before going live, Brennin Hunt (playing Roger Davis) took the phrase “break a leg” literally. He sustained a broken foot the night before production. Fox announced in an official statement that despite Hunt’s injury, the show would still air as planned using both pre-recorded footage from a previous dress rehearsal and live footage.

On January 27, the night of live production, the show was performed in its entirety before a live studio audience, with Hunt performing in a wheelchair. The simultaneous telecast consisted almost entirely of a pre-recorded dress rehearsal. Only the final fifteen minutes of the program, which consisted of the end of the show and an encore performance of “Seasons of Love” featuring the original Broadway cast, was broadcast live. During the taped footage, at the lot, the cast still performed for the audience a semi-staged version of the show with Hunt in a wheelchair, so they could keep the momentum up when the show finally did go live.


Personally, I did watch the live program and I was pleased overall, despite Hunt having to perform in a wheelchair and the majority of the show really not being live. The songs, the cast, and the talent made the show incredible. Rent: Liveis a perfect example of displaying the phrase “the show must go on” no matter what obstacles could be thrown into the mix during production.