Thursday, September 25, 2008

RENT (Filmed on Broadway), or How do you measure a year (or ten)?

Why am I the witness?
And when I capture it on film
Will it mean that it's the end
And I'm alone

RENT: Filmed Live on Broadway
Book, Music & Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
Starring: Adam Kantor (Mark), Justin Johnson (Angel), Michael McElroy (Collins), Renee Elise Goldsberry (Mimi), Tracie Thomas (Joanne), Eden Espinosa (Maureen) & Will Chase (Roger)

Having only seen the Chris Columbus version of RENT (but having obsessively listened to the original Broadway Cast Recording) I came into RENT: Filmed Live on Broadway with the expectation that it would surpass the movie version (of course!) and convince me why it's one of the greatest musicals of the last decade. Thankfully it did that - and more!

Sure, the Chelsea Theatre screwed up the sound at first and we had to live through the credits (including the audience around me clapping) twice, but once the 'show' started I was enthralled. I knew all the songs, but seeing the industrial and malleable stage, the crazy costumes and the ingenious staging of it all, I (re)fell in love with RENT. True, there are those that will say that this wasn't the 'real thing' and they are probably right, but it got as close to it as it could - not, of course, without its faults (can someone explain to me why it privileged close ups and middle shots in big musical numbers where the staging clearly elicits a wide shot? or why in the first half an hour or so it feels as though it was cut by the a Baz Luhrman-circa Moulin Rouge editor only without Jill Bilcock's grace/intent/effect/need?)

Once I got over this (and realised that Rodney Hicks is no Taye Diggs - his was the only performance I didn't connect to) I thoroughly enjoyed RENT: Filmed Live on Broadway and I can't wait for it to be released on DVD so I can enjoy the poignancy of Without You & Goodbye Love (where close ups actually made sense), the hilarity of Over the Moon, the heartbreaking I'll Cover You Reprise (it's that much more affecting on stage) and of course the riotous La Vie Boheme (even if in my opinion the number doesn't lend itself to the grating cuts and close-shots it was subject to)... 

There are too many things to love but it ultimately comes down to the power of the music and the staging and - yes, because I should finish this off with some corny RENT send-off - RENT and its legacy will live on for more than 525600 minutes... Show (A+), Film (A-)


CanadaFilmer said...

Just saw the live film. I agree with you on the editing. The performances were amazing but the shots were way to close, half of them the camera was moving all around and out of focus. I hope for the great performances sake if they release this on dvd they re-edit it. Go with way more medium shots and wide shots so we can see the show and performances. They had a fabulous crane and dolly working there and when they used those shots in the second act they were amazing. Otherwise they turned an amazing show into trash because of the lousy videography. If anyone with that power is listening... Please, oh please re-edit this live film to give the show the respect it deserves.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree rodney Hicks is no Taye diggs because he (rodney) can act! He is fantastic in the role of Benny. No he doesn't look like Taye but he is damn good for my money. As was everyone else.