Fox celebrates seasons of love with 'Rent: Live'
Set in the ‘90s, “Rent”takes its audience members through a journey with a group of young, struggling New Yorkers, each of whom is individually fighting their own battles, whether it be love triangles, drug addiction, overcoming an AIDS epidemic or paying their rent. First developed into a Broadway musical and then a movie, the creators at Fox took on the challenge of putting on their own rendition of this classic movie by creating a live, televised version. However, a foot injury the night before the live event by one of the lead cast members, Brennin Hunt (Roger), put a major setback on the project. But as they say in show business, “The show must go on!” Without understudies handy, the heads of the program decided it’d be best to use the prerecorded footage from the dress rehearsal the night before rather than let the audience down.
This particular performance of “Rent”had quite the cast list, reeling in celebrities such as Vanessa Hudgens (Maureen), Tinashe (Mimi)and Mario (Benny), just to name a few. Other big names include Valentina (Angel), who was a competitor on the ninth season of “RuPaul's Drag Race” and the fourth season of “RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars.” Keala Settle, best known as the “This is Me” singer from “The Greatest Showman,”played a number of roles throughout the show. Oddly enough, two leads of the show, Hudgens and Jordan Fisher, happen to share very similar acting backgrounds, in that both were former Disney Channel stars. Hudgens is most notably known for playing the character of Gabriella in all three “High School Musical” films, and Fisher played Seacat in “Teen Beach Movie 2.” Not only do the two share these titles together, but the two also worked on the set of Fox’s “Grease: Live” back in 2016, where Hudgens acted out the character Betty Rizzo and Fisher played the role of Doody.
An integral part of what makes “Rent”so genius is its music. The melodies throughout the show do not only make for emotional, powerful songs but also carry the flow of the show as well as tell a deep, meaningful story. However, during the first half of the three-hour special, more than a few cast members seemed to struggle with carrying these vocals. Valentina in particular, appeared to have struggled during her iconic song “Today 4 U.” Fortunately, cast members such as Mario, Hudgens, Hunt and Fisher remained strong in their vocal abilities during the entirety of the show. The second half of the show was filled with many lovely, tear-jerking ballads from almost all lead cast members. Hudgens stole the show with her performance of “Take Me or Leave Me” as well as Brandon Victor Dixon in his version of the “I’ll Cover You – Reprise”.
Toward the end of the segment, somewhere within the final 30 minutes, the show proceeded with its original plan to film live on air. Roger could be seen seated on a table with his injured foot elevated. His foot brace was clearly out in the open, not for the costume department to mask.
To end the performance with a bang, the original “Rent” Broadway cast members made a special guest appearance. Both companies wrapped up the show singing “Seasons of Love.” Characters from both the theater and TV versions could be seen standing arm in arm. Hugs and smiles could be noticed in every frame of the camera. It was truly a fantastic way to close the show.
In a nutshell, the televised adaptation of “Rent”was a success, considering the circumstances. After all, viewers only saw a dress rehearsal of what should have been a real-time on-air segment. Not to say the actors and actresses weren’t trying their hardest, but most could assume they may have tried a tad bit harder having known it was the real deal. Regardless, the overall message of “Rent”stood tall and rang out to audiences everywhere. The themes of love, togetherness, illness, poverty, loss and death still remained as focal points during the entire production. So, kudos to all involved in “Rent: Live” for managing to bring back this timeless story of a group of friends journeying through the “seasons of love.”