Rent is a Tony Award-winning musical that had its original Broadway run in 1996. The musical is about a group of young artists struggling to survive in New York City. Many of the characters are homosexual, are drug addicts, and/or have HIV/AIDS. Following its success on Broadway, the musical was taken on many tours, some internationally. In 2005, the musical earned a movie adaptation. The film was a commercial flop, but quickly became a cult favourite.
On January 27, 2019, Fox broadcasted a television special of the musical. It’s the latest musical to hit national airwaves, with Grease: Live and Hairspray: Live being broadcast on opposite ends of 2016. These television specials are hyped up for many reasons. For one, theatre enthusiasts are excited to see an adaptation of a musical on national television. Second, many people are interested in the celebrity ensemble. But much of the appeal is the live aspect. There’s something about live TV that’s more interesting to watch than pre-recorded shows.
Rent: Live started with characters Mark Cohen (Jordan Fisher) and Roger Davis (Brennin Hunt) singing the opening number. On the bottom right of the screen, viewers saw a quick flash of the words that shouldn’t appear during a live broadcast: PRE-RECORDED. After a quick search on the Internet, fans found out that Brennin Hunt broke his foot during dress rehearsal the day before.
The show must go on, as they say in show business. So instead of cancelling the broadcast, Fox decided to air footage from a previous dress rehearsal. The audience was promised that the final scene would be performed live. However, fans were still not happy with this decision. Many criticized the actors’ performances of the pre-recording, noting that it would have been stronger if it were live.
As a casual viewer who had never seen Rent before, I enjoyed the performances regardless. The vocals were solid and the dances were choreographed well. It’s obvious the cast had gone through tons of rehearsal. While many others had mixed reactions during the first two hours and forty-five minutes of the show, all was forgiven during the final fifteen minutes.
The final fifteen minutes were live as promised, and the cameramen didn’t bother to work around Hunt’s wheelchair. It didn’t matter. The main focus was on the original Broadway cast of Rent who came out to sing the final number with the current cast.
Although viewers at home watched mostly pre-recorded footage, those in studio were still lucky to receive an entirely live performance for the three hours. Footage of the in-studio performance was quickly uploaded to the Internet, and many viewers wished they watched that show instead.
Other actors in the Rent: Live main cast included Vanessa Hudgens, Kiersey Clemons, Tinashe, Valentina, Mario, and Brandon Victor Dixon. Rent: Live was the lowest-rated live musical television special to date.