Rent Live–Minus the ‘live’

Last Sunday night, Jan. 27, was a bitter-sweet night for Broadway lovers as FOX debuted “Rent: Live”–minus the ‘live’ part.

“Rent: Live,” already a heart-wrenching and powerful musical, broke even more hearts as viewers were forced to watch a production that was never meant to be screened. Someone, whether it a sour crew member or a lurking phantom, must have muttered the cursed “Macbeth” because star Brennin Hunt (the actor playing Roger) suffered an injured right foot during the final 15 minutes of the dress rehearsal, leaving Hunt unable to perform in the Sunday night premiere.

The ‘show must go on,’ right? Surely an understudy could take Hunt’s place and fans could watch “Rent: Live” live?

Not quite.

FOX, unlike Broadway or most theatrical productions, did not have an understudy for its lead. As the cast faced the camera as the show opens, they revealed the bad news: be mostly the Saturday dress rehearsal due to Hunt’s unfortunate mishap.  The last 15 minutes would be live however, just with Hunt’s entire foot booted and propped. Let the hashtags #RentNotLive and #RentKindaLive ensue.

Even though “Rent: Live” was indeed not live, key performances from Jordan Fisher and “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens stole the show as they belted out such favorites as “La Vie Boheme” and “Take Me or Leave Me.”

Valentina, renowned Drag Queen contestant from RuPaul’s DragRace, played the optimistic and crowd-favorite Angel as she drummed her way through “Today 4 U,” and pop-singer Tinashe acted as the rebellious and promiscuous Mimi.

Paying homage to both the Broadway piece and motion-picture film, the live show ended with a reprise of “Seasons of Love” with all the original actors, including Idina Menzel and “The Greatest Showman” Keala Settle.  

“Rent: Live” succeeded in telling the tale about a ragtag team of young squatters as they fight eviction and deal with the horrors of AIDS, a story penned by Jonathan Larson who died of the disease before his masterpiece was shown.

So, while FOX’s version of “Rent” failed to be live, the punk-rock “One Song Glory” and catchy “Seasons of Love” still won hearts as the performance always does.