Rent, a modern musical about life and death that takes place in New York’s East Village, populated by drug dealers and society’s forgotten, which is loosely based on Puccini’s La Boheme. Rent is part Broadway musical, part performance art, and part rock concert. These three seemingly different elements are entertainingly merged in Rent. Rent chronicles the lives, loves and deaths of its major characters from December 24th through the next Christmas and into the following year. Rent deals with AIDS, drugs, homosexuality, and loss. Loss of innocence, loss of life, loss of work, loss of hope, you name it. Rent is as gritty as its subject matter.
It doesn’t hide a thing. On November 3rd, 2003 I, along with my fellow classmates, attended the Broadway musical Rent, by Jonathon Larson, at the Nederlander Theatre in New York City, New York. Entering the theater we were immediately introduced to the stage. The elegance of the theater helped me to capture a sense of the history of that theater. This revitalized theater is a nice mid-sized theatre, wide but not deep so that you’re close to the stage The set consisted of a large table and chairs in the middle of the stage, a couple of ladders to serve as balconies on one side, and the orchestra in a corner on the other side of the stage.
It was suitable for the various places where the play is set, a rundown New York City apartment, an AIDS group, and a cafi??. The costumes were very contemporary, colorful and daring. There was very little variance in each character’s costume changes because each character seemed to wear clothes that matched his or her personality. The plot of rent consists of eight friends and lovers who find love after a friend’s death. I found three songs particularly exciting that I chose to examine closely.
The show opens in Mark, played by Sebastian Arcelus, and Rogers’, played by Ryan Link, apartment and quickly turns into the second score, “Rent,” including the entire cast. “Rent,” serves to introduce many of the characters and dilemmas of Mark and Rogers’ life. This starts because their landlord, Benny, played by Stu James, asks them for the rent money that they do not have. At the beginning, only Mark and Roger are dancing around the apartment singing about their lives. Toward the end, the entire cast comes on the stage for the first time and is methodically dancing and moving around the stage.
By the end, they are all shouting, “We’re not gonna pay/Last year’s rent/This year’s rent/Next year’s rent . . . We’re not gonna pay rent. ” “Rent” energized the audience because it was so upbeat and motivating. After a long first act, Act II begins with the most famous song in this musical, “Seasons of Love. ” Each member of the cast is lined up in a horizontal line along the front of the stage. They all sing the entire score except for two soloists. At this point in the play, it is New Years’ Eve and the cast is asking themselves how to measure and rethink a year in their lives.
Their response is to “Measure in love/Seasons of love. ” This sets a precedent for the rest of Act II because love will be an important theme in this act. And last but not least, “Take Me or Leave Me,” which is set on Valentine’s Day in Joanne’s apartment with her lesbian lover, Maureen. Maureen, played by Cristina L. Fadale, is an outspoken, outrageous artist while Joanne, played by Kenna J. Ramsey, is a conservative lawyer. They often disagree, and on this occasion, Maureen addresses Joanne’s concern of cheating on their relationship.
Maureen tells of how she is always being approached by potential partners and tells Joanne that she must accept it. They alternate reaming each other for their worst flaws. They both shout, “Take me for what I am/Who I was meant to be. ” In the end, they both decide that their relationship is over. “Rent” serves a purpose in showing the struggles of life today in New York City. Mark and Roger feel a severe sense of hopelessness with their lives. They feel betrayed by life in general in that they are struggling so hard to accomplish nothing.
Roger is bitter at love because we later find out that his girlfriend committed suicide after finding out that they both have AIDS. Roger captures their general separation to the world around them in the quote, “How can you connect in an age/Where strangers, landlords, lovers/Your own blood cells betray? ” At the end of the score, they feel a surge of power shown through the entire company dancing around the stage and the increasing loudness of the vocals. “Rent” ends in a way that seems to be hopeful for Mark and Roger because their attitudes grow more optimistic.
When the actors and actresses return to the stage for “Seasons of Love,” there is automatically a positive spirit with both the audience and the cast members. The cast came out smiling, possibly in anticipation of the audience’s roaring response to this score. This song illustrates the importance of love in each person’s life on stage, and even in the audience. I think it speaks to so many people in the audience because everyone can relate to the idea of love. I felt like there was a great deal of feeling and emotion put into this song. “Take Me or Leave Me” shows Maureen and Joanne’s hectic relationship.
Besides portraying one of their many fights, it is useful to show more directly Maureen’s wild personality. Until the very end of the first act, Maureen is only in the cast through hearsay and gossip. This confirms that she is the stuck-up, selfish girl that everyone is talking about. Other than that, I feel that this is just a cute song that serves little purpose in the whole play. I enjoyed “Seasons of Love” simply because of the way it made me feel. Everyone feels something different after that score, but it makes me feel grateful for the people I have in my life.
I enjoy the fact that this shows how precious our time is and that all that matters is love. I thought that the vocals were very strong because it was the entire cast singing together. I even really enjoyed the soloists’ performances because they improvised and sang the part with their own personal touch. Ok! Now that I’ve talked about my favorite songs in the play, lets talk about the acting shall we! In general, I thought that the performers had good voices and performed the roles well. . I liked the way the actors moved and sang, and I thought that they gave a very strong performance.
However, there was one main character which I absolutely adored. This character was non-other than Angel, played by Andy Sei?? or. Andy plays a transvestite street drummer who is also infected with HIV. Andy’s ability to uniquely portray a homosexual character dealing with aids had me in awe. With such a sensitive subject as aids and homosexuality, Andy played his role superbly. Like most plays, the lighting is an essential part for the whole production. In Rent the lighting helped me to gain a sense of understanding of the characters and the time frame.
I felt it was clever of the white ball hanging off the ceiling, which was supposed to be the moon. This object helped me to identify whether it was night time or if the setting was taking place outdoor. The choices of color throughout the play were magnificent because it literally brought out the raw emotion surrounding the play. Without these elements, color and lighting, I would have been virtually confused by what is going on. The only short comings in this play were the background music and the jumping around of characters and situations. It was a little too loud because, at times, it was difficult to understand the lyrics.
At times, the audience was yelling and hollering at the performers. This kind of took away from my concentration on the show. It was quite confusing with the numerous jumping of characters and situations. Because of the loud background music, it was hard for me to understand the characters situations. The appeal that Rent has had is not surprising. The show hits many young people where they live. It would have been interesting to see what the show would be like had Jonathan Larson not died of an aortic aneurysm the night before the show’s first Broadway preview.
As for the audience at the Nederlander Theatre, I can attest that most if not all walked out entertained and elated on the performance the cast gave. Rent has made theatrical history, and it deserves most of the praise it has gotten, it is quite worth seeing this groundbreaking musical. You will learn something about yourself, if not you’ll have a fun time enjoying some really good performances. I walked out of the theater with a positive attitude towards the performing arts and will continue to enjoy the arts from here on out. I give Rent two thumbs up!