Playwright: Jonathan Larson
Top Cast: Jordan Fisher (Mark), Brennin Hunt (Roger),Vanessa Hudgens (Maureen), Valentina (Angel), Tinashe (Mimi), Kiersey Clemons (Joanne), Brandon Victor Dixon (Collins), Mario (Benny), Keala Settle
Network: Fox Broadcasting Company
SPOILERS? Spoilers if you’ve never seen it. But maybe spoilers to some of the specifics of this performance? Anyway… consider this a potential warning.
Fox Network’s RENT Live! showed on January 27 at 7pm Mountain time which was very difficult to find out because no one mentions mountain time for premieres. Most of the show was pre-recorded from the preview/rehearsal the night before because Brennin Hunt, the show’s Roger, had broken his foot and could not perform. However, he did show his great live singing chops in the last scene with his cast and his leg elevated while crying over Mimi. I was hoping that the cast would live up to the original Broadway and movie cast and they did. It was especially difficult to pull off considering the original cast members appeared at the end in a rendition of “Seasons of Love”.
I LOVED IT.
So first of all, can we talk about that amazing set! The whole production took place on interconnected concrete walkways. It was amazing. There were little kiosks and graffiti in certain sections. It gave a real New York look but with such simplicity and it had just the right amount of character and color. I can’t even explain all the little things because you just have to see it. The only thing was that I could totally tell how someone could break their foot on set. I was terrified the whenever Roger did some climbing or jumping because I knew what was going to happen… But that didn’t take away any of its brilliance and intricacy.
ALSO! That costuming tho!!!! I like the update of Mark’s sweater…very colorful. The joke about the original striped sweater was too funny. When Angel and Collins were looking in the for a coat for Collins from the homeless lady’s layout, she pulled out the Mark’s sweater from the original production. Angel condemned it as a fashion faux pas. Which for Rent-heads gave an extra little comedic relief. Also there were so many costume changes. Each person changed at least once, not to mention all the swing actors. I LOVED Angel’s wardrobe. Act 2 had CD earrings and luminescent fabric. Now Maureen’s space shirt, cow pants and headpiece were awesome. Her outfit matched Maureen’s protest perfectly literally.
The choreography during all the major dance and group scenes was great. It was different but still looked intricate and just really flowed all together. Literally Jordan Fisher had to walk over multiple people and hands during “La Vie Boheme” while interacting with some of the other actors and dancing. The full cast intertwined and folded over each other with such ease. I can’t even explain how much I loved the movement of the production.
Jordan Fisher was a perfect Mark. Not only did I already love him from past performances including Hamilton and Dancing with the Stars, but he has just given me another reason to be a fan. His Mark was spot on. He almost sounded like the original, Anthony Rapp, and he had the character’s personality down. I was obsessed with every time he slid across the floor or table. My favorite song from the musical is the “Tango Maureen” and he definitely did it justice, along with Keirsey Clemons as Joanne. He nailed the little mannerisms that Mark does to tease Maureen and his tears in the second act were heart-wrenching.
Brennin Hunt was an amazing Roger. What a great voice. It was so strong and such a fit with the rock character. His performance recording from the night before was great and his live vocals were even stronger and smoother. It really drew you in and let you realize the emotion. Not to mention he is very pretty and reminds me of Hook from Once Upon a Time. And those painted nails thoooo.
Vanessa Hudgens pleasantly surprised me. I knew she was talented but I was wondering if she had the pipes to pull of Maureen. She did not disappoint! The only thing I missed from Idina Menzel is when she walks with high knees and her arms in a funny way during her performance but that is a personal actor’s choice. Otherwise Hudgens embodied Maureen and blew us away with her long and powerful notes.
Keirsey Clemons brought style to Joanne with her beautiful lower tone voice. I loved her. She was so powerful and had such emotion to every song she sang. I loved the Tango Maureen and the choreography to go along with it. And I absolutely died when she grabbed Vanessa’s waist in “Take Me or Leave Me”.
Tinashe made a great Mimi. She captured her look perfectly. The only thing is I wish she’d held the howls longer in “Out Tonight”. But her dancing and sex appeal were not lost. I could see the emotion between her and Roger in their scenes. And she gave a sense of young cuteness but yet sass to the 19 year-old character.
Angel’s character was totally matched with Valentina’s performance. Yes, we all know she missed a couple notes here and there but the character was well done and the charisma was spot on.
Collins was portrayed very well by Brandon Victor Dixon. He had a great voice and really fit the character. I could see the love for Angel and the emotion in the “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)”. At first I had my doubts because the song didn’t start off as strong as it could’ve but the ending was so emotional and real and powerful that I was almost in tears. I held back of course because I’m just that tough lol. I love Jesse L. Martin’s voice though and the comparison at the end when they were all singing “Seasons of Love” really showed the difference in power and smoothness.
Mario was a wonderful Benny and had a really pretty voice. Sometimes I wish he had a bit more force to his voice but the softness to it really fit the character. The costuming and swagger of Benny was perfect.
Finally, there was Keala Settle. You may know her from the original Broadway cast of Waitress or as the bearded lady in The Greatest Showman. She provided the emotional high notes and was a wonderful, recognizable swing actor. She always has so much emotion and power behind everything she does and I really don’t know how she does it.
Only a couple of times, in the whole performance, did I think that there needed more energy, power, or volume in scenes. (Really I just thought “La Vie Boheme” just needed a bit more noise.)
So overall if you couldn’t tell, it was great. Highly recommend. I will be singing RENT songs for the next week now. The soundtrack is available on AppleMusic and Spotify. Hopefully they’ll put it on Netflix like they did Grease Live! so we can watch it over and over and over again.
Name of Reviewer: Natty Trujillo
Date of Review: 1/29/19