Those who follow the blog regularly will know that I love a good musical. I’ve been lucky enough to see a number of musicals performed in theatres both locally in Birmingham, in Manchester, on the West End in London and even on Broadway over the last decade. However, there’s one musical in particular that is my favourite above all the others, that I know inside out and will watch over and over while feeling like I’ve been reunited with a group of friends every time I do…
As with most things, I was very late to the RENT party, only discovering its brilliance in 2016 – 20 years after its first Off Broadway performance, 11 years after the release of the movie and 8 years after its final Broadway performance.
In 2016 I was invited to go and see a production of RENT at a local theatre to review for the blog. I knew the plot, Jonathan Larson’s story and many of the songs already (having performed them as part of a choir while I was at college), but I hadn’t actually seen the musical performed live.
The performance was a little rough around the edges. Despite a talented cast, there were some enormous problems with the sound and issues with props and sets, and if I’m honest by the time it got to the second half I was a little bored and distracted by all the things that had gone wrong. However, that all changed when Rhys Owen as Collins performed the I’ll Cover You Reprise… I couldn’t believe it that I managed to find a recording of it on YouTube this morning.
Of course, Jessie L. Martin is the king, and there’s a number of tuning issues within the cast, but Rhys’s performance still remains as possibly the best of anything I have ever seen in a live capacity (the recording doesn’t do it justice). The rest of the audience agreed – giving Rhys a standing ovation, cheering and crying before the song had even finished.
After that, the performance left such an incredible impact that I immediately wanted to see it again, and it has developed into a minor obsession. We watched the musical live on the Tuesday, rented the film on the Wednesday, watched it again on the Thursday, bought the DVD’s of the film and the final Broadway performance on the Saturday, and we promptly watched it again on the Sunday. Of course, there are some huge differences between the movie and musical, but I love them both and treat them as separate entities, still watching them both regularly. I cry every time.
In December 2016 The Bloke surprised me with tickets to go and see the sold out 20th Anniversary Tour in London (which was amazing), and the cherry on the icing of the fabulous cake was that Anthony Rapp (the original ‘Mark’ on Broadway) by sheer chance was doing a series of shows in the studio theatre below the venue where we had watched Rent the night before. He’s musical theatre royalty, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see him in person, so we decided to go back to the theatre and wait for him to show up for his performance. I asked him if he would take a photograph with me, which he did. He was incredibly gracious despite being busy, and it made my day…
When we got married in Oct 2017, RENT featured in our ceremony. The Bloke has ‘No Day But Today’ engraved on the inside of his wedding ring, and we walked back down the aisle to I’ll Cover You – the love song between Angel and Collins. During our honeymoon to NYC we went and found the Nederlander Theatre where RENT was performed on Broadway. I’m still working up the courage to get ‘No Day But Today’ tattooed on my wrist (I’m not great with needles) as my wedding band is too thin to get an engraving, but I will.
Last night was the Rent: Live broadcast on Fox. I didn’t have access to be able to watch it here, so I have caught up with some of the core songs via YouTube, but as of yet I haven’t been able to see the full production. As with many that I spoke to before the performance I was more than a little skeptical, but as it stands I have been pleasantly surprised at just a few of the individual performances, and was filled with goosebumps when the original cast appeared for the finale, but I’ll reserve my overall judgements until I’ve had the chance to watch it all the way though. However, did anyone else think there was a bit of screaming rather than singing going on and it needed to be pulled back at times?
So for those of you who are Rentheads that did watch the performance, what did you think?
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