Rent (Not) Live

Started by scenicdesign71, Jan 29, 2019, 02:06 am

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Jan 29, 2019, 02:06 am Last Edit: Apr 09, 2019, 10:43 pm by scenicdesign71
Anyone see this last night?

I'm more surprised than I should be by the drubbing it's received -- especially given my agreement, to one extent or another, with the substance of many of the complaints.  The NYT at least acknowledges the diciness of trying to review what was mostly a taped dress rehearsal.  And yes, the terrible audio -- who knows, perhaps even some of the seasick-making camerawork -- might have gotten fixed given the additional 24 hours.  Maybe they'd have finessed the crowd-wrangling (so effective in last year's JCS, so often disastrous here).  If only, if only...

Once again, I found my self plunged into my same old deep ambivalence about this show.  (Speaking of "woulda, coulda, shoulda" -- I don't suppose there's much chance that Larson would have made substantial improvements to his libretto, had he lived to see the show open downtown and then transfer up- ? One can dream, I guess).

For me the most frustrating thing was the teasing ratio of good to not-so-good in this production; original cast notwithstanding, at times it almost could have redeemed the dreadful, Disneyfied 2005 movie version (while at others it almost made the film look good by comparison).  This production design (by Jason Sherwood) got pretty spectacularly right just about everything that the movie's wrong-headedly glossy art-direction got so abysmally wrong.  And the staging -- when it wasn't being mangled by hyperactive fisheye-lens swoopage -- gave the piece an immersive urgency that made me wonder whether full-on "environmental/in-the-round" mightn't actually be the definitively correct way to stage Rent in actual, live-for-real stage productions.  (Although, as with JCS, I actually really liked the fact that the scale of the set, and the shrewd scarcity of really really REALLY wide shots to encompass it all at once, made it intriguingly difficult to comprehend the full layout; in this case, after watching the whole thing I still wouldn't understand much about the actual geography of Sherwood's design, were it not for the helpful groundplan I just noticed after scrolling down on his webpage).

And then there was the cast: game, even joyful, but variable and a bit scattered, it was tempting to wonder yet again whether they mightn't have pulled together a markedly better performance overnight.  (Perhaps so, though I'm not sure whether a single night would've been quite enough).  I'm actually curious what their rehearsal period was like: how long, how much of it on-set, how much tech time?  On the evidence of Sunday night's (or, really, Saturday night's) performance, my suspicion is that it was too brief by one or more (or all) of those criteria.  The results were mostly respectable and, on occasion, honest-to-god moving; but the evening -- its lead performances included -- did feel a little more chaotic than might have been ideal.  (As has become commonplace with these things, the supporting turns by seasoned stage pros stood out for their serene professionalism in comparison with some of the less-experienced, sometimes perceptibly freaked-out leads).

On the plus side, it's been a very long time since I bothered to remember just how much exhilaratingly lovely music there is in Larson's score.  Granted, there are some clunkers as well; and far too much of it is set to lyrics that rarely rise above (and often slip below) adequacy; and none of it sounds persuasively like anything one would have actually encountered in the streets or clubs or performance-art spaces of the East Village circa 1991-92.  Still, when the music works, it works quite well indeed -- and there are many more such instances than I had remembered.


I completely spaced that this was on, so I'm enjoying reading your comments and hope that enough people saw it to get some sort of discussion going. 


I have such nostalgia for the show Rent but it hasn't entirely aged well. I think it works best with a young cast like this because to be this ridiculous (refusal to pay rent because... art?) you really need to be 22. That said, I do love the music. 

My understanding was that some of them were holding back to save their voices. Have you seen the footage from the real live show that Fox didn't put on tv? A bunch of it is on YouTube (Fox put out some of it rough cut later) and the energy level was definitely higher. I was surprised at how much I liked Vanessa Hudgens actually. But I was not into all the exposition they added to the production. Is the show really that confusing? It also desperately made me want to watch the Rent on Broadway dvd again to see that cast sing it.