Friday, September 26, 2008

My Rent Post

When Rent first hit it big 12 or so years ago on Broadway, I was immediately prejudiced against it for several reasons.

First, the tragic death of Jonathan Larson. I wonder to this day if Rent would have even registered a blip on the radar screen of American theatre, let along popular culture, if he hadn’t died just before the show opened. His death added a whole other dimension to the show, and the publicity from it vaulted it into the public eye. Suddenly, regardless of whether or not the musical was any good, Rent was a good story.

Secondly, suddenly, everyone I knew who’d seen it was saying “you have to see Rent.” Um, excuse me, but I don’t have to do anything. One of the easiest ways to get me not to do something is to tell me I have to do it. If my friends really wanted me to share in their moving love of the musical, that was not the way to convince me to give it a shot.

Thirdly, everyone I knew who hadn’t seen it was saying “I have to see Rent.” Um, why? A lot people didn’t know. Suddenly people were dying to see Rent, not because they knew anything about it, but because it was the thing to see. They didn’t want to be left out, and heaven forbid they see it and not like it. Then they’d really be a freak.

Going to see Rent, and professing to love it, became a symbol to me of an immature sense of needing to fit in. Not wanting to bow to such peer pressure, I avoided the show for years.

Then one day after a meeting, a meeting for which I had dressed up, a friend dropped me off at the Civic Center BART stop so I could go home. I had to walk right past the Orpheum Theatre to get to the escalators, and a crowd of people were gathered around preparing to go in for a performance. I stopped, and squinted at the box office windows to see if they might be selling tickets still, when a woman came up to me and asked if I had a ticket for the show.

I said “No,” and she handed me one.

“My daughter couldn’t make it. I don’t want it to go to waste.”

Before I could register what had just happened, let alone say “thanks” she’d turned and disappeared into the crowd. I figured I’d see her at the seats and thank her properly then, but when I got up to the upper balcony, she was no where to be seen.

And that’s how I finally saw Rent. What did I think?

Meh. I didn’t like it. I didn’t hate it. Someone dropped something loudly backstage at one point, which I at first thought I’d imagined, but later I discovered a friend of mine was also in the audience and had heard it too. Mostly I left thinking “that was it?”

Don’t get me wrong. Just because I didn’t care for it doesn’t mean I don’t think you should love it if you want to. Just please don’t try to make me love it too, because when I read “Even if you’ve been to Rent live, I insist you catch one of the three remaining screenings (of Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway)”, I have to think… Um, no.


  1. When Rent first came out, I heard the soundtrack before anyone told me that I had to see the musical. I fell in love with the music and the story, and in my head, there was this awesome picture of this awesome musical.

    I saw the touring show in Boston in 2002ish, if I remember correctly. And wow, was it ever a disappointment.

    I blame it more on the directing and acting in the show, though. It was mostly move, pose, line, move, pose, line. Until there was a song of course. Then the show came to life.

    But yeah, it was really a letdown.

  2. I was in my junior year of High School when Rent took the Tony. I listened over and over and over. La Boheme was my second favorite opera. I was a teenager, and something about the show clicked. I've never seen it live, and frankly, the time is past for the show's relevance. But still something about the music gets into my head and creates this amazing place.
    Oh, and I don't much care for Avenue Q or Wicked, so I kind of get where you're coming from.

  3. I wasn't blown away by Wicked either, but I enjoyed it. I guess. Similar for Avenue Q. Enjoyed it, but didn't go nuts for it. The last musical I saw that I really truly loved was the revival of The Music Man a while back.


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