In some ways, though, I'm sorry to say that I still don't feel as if I've seen the true "RENT."
It all began for me several years ago when I saw some sort of a television special about the artist/composer Jonathon Larson. I learned in that program about this 29 year old man who wrote a rock musical based on Giacomo Puccini's opera "La Boheme," which tells the story of a group of young and impoverished artists trying to survive in New York's lower east side while battling HIV/AIDS.
However, it wasn't so much the story of "RENT," and especially not the alternative lifestyles and adult themes portrayed in the musical that attracted me to it.
No, it was the music. Definitely, the music. Listening to song after song, I became quickly convinced that this composer, Jonathon Larson, was a musical genius. I was sure we'd be hearing his compositions for many years to come. He would have longevity like some of the other greats.
Unfortunately, that was not to happen as Larson died unexpectedly during the night immediately following the final dress rehearsal, just hours before the scheduled debut on January 24th, 1996. He never lived to see how his dream immediately became an off-Broadway success. "RENT" eventually opened on Broadway on April 25, 1996 and won three Tony Awards including Best Musical and four Drama Desk Awards. Larson won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama after his death.
Since first hearing the soundtrack, I have listened to it and enjoyed it many times. I knew I needed to see the show at some point, and because my husband does not care for traveling to New York City, I wasn't sure how I'd ultimately get to see this musical.
I expected a pleasant date evening - dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants, BJ's Steak and Ribs in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, then a night at the theater.
Unfortunately it wasn't the great experience seeing "RENT" that I had imagined for all these years since first hearing the music.
This was a small theater, seating probably only 100 or so guests, and there were a plethora of technical difficulties on the night we were there. The temperature was easily 80 degrees in there, and the seats were cheap, tiny, uncomfortable folding chairs. Because the theater was so small, there were virtually no scenery changes, yet they always seemed to be carrying things in and out and banging things around between scenes. No microphones on the cast members made hearing them difficult much of the time.
The "RENT" score contains some pretty challenging tunes, and unfortunately, the performance didn't always aptly reflect the music I had learned to expect from all those times I had listened to my "RENT" CD.
The evening was not a total bust, though. There were several of the characters that had very pleasant singing voices and could handle the ranges as required. They portrayed some difficult and controversial roles quite capably.
|The character Angel Schunard (internet photo)|
|The character Joanne Jefferson (internet photo)|