If you're like me and Chris and express a disappointment for the movie version of the musical Rent, then you will indeed be happy to know that the new filmed version of the now closed stage production is vastly superior. Titled Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway, the new cinecast still has the flaws of the material, but mostly, it provides an engaging preservation of the landmark show.
Rent, in my opinion, is a show that hasn't aged as well as other 90's musicals. While it provides a mostly ballerific score, a lot of the production seems dated. There are a few scenes that are incredibly bad (Chris mentions the post funeral scene - "you have to learn to love yourself". The duet scene between Mark and Roger arguing - "the filmmaker cannot see/the songwriter cannot hear" - is cringe inducing to me.) and some clunkers of songs (once again, Chris mentions "Happy New Year" and I completely agree.) The sanitized movie version further emphasized the inherent badness of much of the show. However, despite my reservations for the show itself, I headed to the movie theater to take in the filmed last performance. And I am very happy I did.
I found myself really moved periodically. And as a result, I was reminded constantly how good the show really is: the staging is very well directed, the songs are uniformly complex (if not all necessarily good), and the subject matter - while a bit dated - is still engaging thanks mostly to the fresh new cast.
To start, the standout is Will Chase as Roger. Chase provides a deeper and more conflicted portrayal than original cast member Adam Pascal. He is in fantastic voice, and his musicality shows. He also is more believable as a young adult. Reneé Elise Goldsberry makes for an endearing Mimi. And Justin Johnston Angel is a riot, finding unprecedented humor in the part.
Adam Kantor is a bright Mark. And yes, even Eden Espinosa is effective as Maureen. Tracie Thoms makes a return to the role of Joanne (one of the few good things about the movie version was Thoms' dynamic performance). I was not as enamored with Michael McElroy as Collins. Perhaps it was his relatively weaker vocal performance throughout the show. None of his songs soared for me, musically or dramatically.
The camera work by Declan Quinn is effective without calling too much attention to itself. The wizards at radical.media have utilized state-of-the-art high-definition video and digital audio technology to make the show come alive.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone expresses an enthusiasm for Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway and for future possibilities for the new format of live performances filmed for the movie theater:
You can't see this kind of magic without dreaming of what's next on The Hot Ticket, from the same Sony Company that released the dreaded 2005 Rent [movie]. Is this version karmic payback? If so, it's working.
I can think of so many shows that Hollywood botched (The Producers, Gypsy, South Pacific, A Chorus Line) being captured in a cinecast. Or how about shows still on Broadway that may never make it to the big screen, such as Spring Awakening, In the Heights, Jersey Boys and the youth-centric production of Hair that played in Central Park this summer? The list goes on. You probably have your own. Start listing.
I share his praise and excitement for the format. I only hope a DVD deal can be met so I can enjoy this final performance forever.