(Contextual note: late night of conference sessions and networking. Will this post get finished and published before midnight? Enjoy the mystery and suspense. Tick-tock, tick-tick.)
I mentioned that one of the reasons I didn’t post Sunday night is that I got sucked into the telecast of Rent (intended to be) Live.
Those of you who follow news of the Broadway and musical theater variety probably know a lot of what happened, sir I won’t do too much of a detailed recap: actor Brennin Hunt, who was playing Roger, broke his foot about 3/4 of the way through Saturday’s dress rehearsal. The seriousness of the injury mandated that he legitimately could not “play through the pain” as has happened in other live musical telecasts. Instead, Fox went to their contingency plan. Instead of showing a live performance in the Sunday night time slot, they aired footage of Saturday’s rehearsal, which was taped precisely for this “in case of emergency” circumstance.
Vox is unflinching and unforgiving in its criticism of that choice and the suggestion of alternate courses of action the production might have taken instead, including an especially, finally letting go of the dependence on star power and name recognition to actually have understudies hired and prepared as part of the cast. And I can’t bring myself to argue with much (or any?) of Vox’s suggestions here. And yet…
I really kind of liked the show.
I’ll admit, it’s entirely likely that I was listening more with my heart than with my critical faculties. I know the show is imperfect, and flawed, and contains some sketchy bits of sexual/queer politics. But it was such a significant bell-weather for me. It inspired me to get reconnected to the Broadway scene after college. It brought a new energy and vernacular to the Broadway stage.* And, more individually, it was an artistic work and cultural artifact I examined closely in my graduate studies, and, as such, I have a deeply intimate relationship with the piece. Which means my love for the piece itself makes me an exceptionally kind judge of any individual performance of said piece.
But I legitimately found lots to enjoy in the performance. Yes, the sound mixing compromised Angel’s two big songs, and it’s hard for me to tell whether the vocal hiccups there seemed from tiredness, the phenomenon of “marking” during rehearsals, or the unfortunate possibility that the pieces were just beyond the vocal range of the performer. Despite that, the connection that Valentina and Brandon Victor Dixon created with each other brought out tones and nuances in the Angel-Collins relationship that moved me deeply.
I was similarly moved by Tinashe’s work as Mimi, Jordan Fisher’s take on Mark, and the stand-out ensemble (shout-out to Keala Settle and Robert Roldan!). Meanwhile, Vanessa Hudgen’s work as Maureen gave me life.
So I legitimately enjoyed the Saturday-night taped version of the show. And, from what I’ve seen of the concert version they performed for Sunday’s arena audience, there was a magic in the air that brought out something very very special:
I am hoping that concert rendition is released in full at some point in the future.
* I would argue that there’s no Hamilton without Rent. I don’t really think Lin-Manuel Miranda would disagree with me.