I should tell you: Frankfort's Will
Chase as Roger connects with Renée Elise Goldsberry as Mimi in Rent Filmed Live on Broadway. Below: Adam
Kantor as Mark sings for the cameras. Bottom: Tracie Thoms as Joanne and Kantor in The Tango Maureen. Copyrighted photos by Casey Stoufer for Sony Pictures.
This is how Rent should be seen on film.
In 2005, the Rent movie came out with great anticipation, and, to a lot of viewers like me, great disappointment. Chris Columbus' film did have great moments. La Vie Boheme and Jesse L. Martin's reprise of I'll Cover You stand out to me as iconic movie musical scenes.
But the movie picked apart the flow of Jonathan Larson's creation, making it more of a standard issue movie musical than the rock opera that it was, and the film as a whole felt hollow. It left a lot of us telling people who wondered why we are so enraptured with this show, "You have to see the stage version."
Well, the Broadway production is closed now, but this weekend, you can see Rent Filmed Live on Broadway at movie theaters around the country. The film was made during some of Rent's final Broadway performances, earlier this month. As a bonus for we Central Kentuckians, Frankfort native Will Chase plays Roger, the rocker struggling to connect with others while he faces the inevitability of AIDS.
Chase's interpretation is different from the Broadway Cast Recording and film Roger, Adam Pascal. He's a bit more subtle, with less of an angry edge. But the internal struggle is clear, and we can hear why Chase has become a go-to-guy for Broadway rock musicals.
He has a strong counterpart in Renee Elise Goldsberry as Mimi, who enters with a gorgeous, full voice in Light my Candle, and never flags.
For the uninitiated, Rent is a Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about residents of the Alphabet City neighborhood in New York in the early 1990s. It is based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Boheme, and these Bohemians struggle with poverty, AIDS and personal travails while trying to pursue their artistic ambitions. Adding to Rent's legend was lyricist and composer Jonathan Larson's tragic death from an aortic aneurysm hours after the final dress rehearsal for Rent's Off-Broadway opening.
All of the film cast is strong, and embodies the energy that made this show go for 12 years on Broadway. Rentheads will have no problem locking in on the story, while people more oriented to the movies may have to work a little bit to wrap their heads around some of the representational theater that takes place.
Director Michael Warren and his camera crew did seem to have a little trouble capturing some of the full-stage ensemble numbers, particularly the title tune and the Christmas Bells that leads into Over the Moon. But Moon is one of the pieces that is captured exquisitely -- even got some in the crowd mooing on Thursday night at Fayette Mall -- in addition to Tango Maureen; One Song Glory, where we see how beautifully stage director Michael Greif isolated Roger on stage; Contact, filmed to accentuate its ghostly wildness; Will I? and Without You.
The last two, from Larson's music and lyrics to Warren's camera work, really help illustrate the big themes and personal stories that helped Rent pave the way for Broadway to address topics that were once taboo and make people see themselves and their friends in this New York story. That's the theme we also see in Seasons of Love, Rent's signature song that takes those huge topics of love, seasons and a year and breaks them down into 525,600 minutes. The final rendition of Seasons in this film also features the original Broadway cast of Rent.
Hopefully a DVD of Rent Filmed Live on Broadway is coming. If asked, "what is it about Rent?," the best answer still is to tell people to try to see it live. But this film is a solid document of this piece of musical theater history.
~ In addition to Will Chase, read more about Kentuckians in the national spotlight in Lu-Ann's Kentucky News Review.