I made the horrible mistake of taking Loren to the movie version of Rent and having that be his introduction to Jonathan Larson's Broadway musical, which happens to be my favorite of all time. Look, I am far from being some fanatical purist, but that adaptation had me sinking into my seat from embarrassment and hanging my head in shame afterward. Loren hated the film, now vilifies the musical because of it, and makes fun of me any time I even mention the word "rent." And the only thing I can do is sing loudly and off-key, "Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes!," as a defense mechanism. After that, I just don't have the will or energy to go into a detailed explanation about how groundbreaking Larson's Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical is and how it brought "edgy" to Broadway before "edgy" became commonplace on The Great White Way—what, with its story filled with drug addicts, drug dealers, gays, lesbians, drag queens, the homeless, persons with AIDS, and starving artists. It was ironic—a production about people with no money that could only be seen by people with money. Theater for those who don't go to the theater.
After 12 years on Broadway, Rent closed on September 7, 2008. Someone came up with the idea of filming the final performance and then presenting it digitally in movie theaters across the country for just four screenings. So I knew I had to go, and I had to go see it as far from Loren as possible.
Conveniently, I rolled into San Francisco tonight and went with Tod. Before the presentation, Tod kept encouraging me to stand up and give the speech I bounced off of him earlier: "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to sing along! Is there anyone else here who wants to sing along?! Raise your hand! If we reach a majority, then it shall be so!" Alas, I was too shy, and most of us ended up singing along to ourselves, which I suppose was the couth thing to do anyway. We did clap after musical numbers though, and that felt good.
I've seen Rent on Broadway twice, as well as a touring production in Vegas, and I have to say that watching the play on the big screen was a new and amazing experience. I'm not talking about the uniformly excellent cast with golden voices (most of whom I saw the last time I was in New York). But to get to witness everything up close like that revealed levels of detail (in the acting, directing, and design) that was lost to me even when I was sitting in the third row at the Nederlander Theatre in New York. Also, Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway is so well-produced and beautifully edited and shot—the director of photography is Declan Quinn, who filmed Leaving Las Vegas, In America, and the criminally under-seen Vanya on 42nd Street.
Even if you've been to Rent live, I insist that you catch one of the three remaining screenings on Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday. Click here to find a theater near you and buy tickets ahead of time. Leave the haters at home and see it as far away from them as possible:
Some additional notes:
* The original Broadway cast comes out at the end. Both casts do a "Seasons of Love" encore.
* There is a 10-minute intermission, complete with a countdown clock and everything.
* I want you to go to this thing so that the producers make some money. If they do, maybe they will film more plays and bring them to movie theaters. I can't express enough how excited I am by this idea.
* Tod gave me High School Musical hand sanitizer as a gift—because, you know, I really should cleanse my palms after watching HSM.