No Day But Today

I am a former RENT-head. I was in college in 1997 majoring in theater and sure the whole world misunderstood me. When I first heard the original cast album blasting in the costume shop of the theater department, I felt like someone was singing my soul. I was instantly captivated. I loved RENT like my mom loves Jesus. I played the cd as I moved into my first apartment. The walls of that grungy apartment were covered with RENT posters. I spent hours in AOL chat rooms of theater nerds talking about RENT.

My best friend/sidekick/roommate and I sang RENT in the car, at work and, under the influence of midori sours, staged the whole show in our living room for anyone who wanted to watch us. To this day when I hear those songs, it's like having him in the room.

I was completely obsessed with this musical that I had never seen. Seriously. I couldn't afford the trip to New York to sit in line for the $20 front row tickets. Best friend/sidekick/roommate went several times, but he had a scholarship. (He did bring me a t-shirt) Sure, there was a grainy VHS bought on eBay of the original Broadway cast. So I had an idea of the staging. But that is hardly a substitute for live theater.

When I finally saw a touring production years later, it felt anti-climactic. I moo-ed enthusiastically at Maureen's protest and I cried when Angel died, but something felt kind of empty.

I saw the current touring production with original cast members Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp last night. It was perfectly fine. It was a kick to see them in the roles that made their careers. A few other performers were particularly fun. Nicollete Hart as Maureen was so sexy and fun. (Imagine a hybrid of Amy Poehler and Storm Large) Justin Johnson, as Angel, managed to keep his performance fresh and funny, even on this exhausting tour.

But I had the same feeling last night that I did when I finally saw the show for the first time. I know this is good, but I'm kind of dissappointed. What's missing? Why does this feel empty? I know I'm older and the show is a relic at this point. The freshness of live theater is considerably diminished when you know the show by heart.

But I think that ultimately, no RENT will equal the one staged in my living room in 1997. I texted the former best friend/sidekick/roommate this morning and told him it was time for a visit.


Cali said...

My college play-i've-never-seen-but-am-obsessed-with was the film version + soundtrack of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. If I was home, Hedwig was playing. My best friend/sidekick/sometimes roomate translated a monologue from the film for French class. It was a rare scentence that escaped our lips without referencing the international ignored slip of a girly boy from communist East Berlin. I was in an advanced poetry class that semester and couldn't write if Hedwig wasn't on. Blockbuster threatened to have me deported I kept it so long. I've still not yet seen the staged version, but the film never dissapoints.

A little six degrees here - Hedwig's lover Yitzhak lands the role of Angel in Rent.

MightyToyCannon said...

With this post, we welcome the mysterious Princess Smartypants to the Culture Shock fold. I noticed a new nom de blog added to our contributor list earlier this month (Mr. Culture Jock controls that side of the business), and have been anxiously awaiting her appearance on these virtual pages since. What a nice beginning -- a perfectly theater-geeky commentary! Keep it up girl.

Cali, you missed a fabulous stage version of Hedwig several years ago in PDX, directed by the late great Dennis Bigelow with Wade McCollum in the title role.

Snickers said...

I am a major RENT head myself. I love singing all the songs and my dogs actually dont bark! it was one of the first musicals that was introduced to me and I haven't left the theater since.


Stephen said...

Nice post, Smartypants... Looking forard to more. I can really relate to your story. I had a very similar experience, but I am so damn old, for me the show was A Chorus Line, but the experience was almost identical.

culturejock said...

My name is Culture Jock and I too am a former RENT head.

MightyToyCannon said...

In 1997, I was a jaded, wizened arts administrator working for the city's major theater company. A young, naive member of our development department was excited about this new show playing in NYC called RENT. That young man grew up to be Culture Jock. Me? Never saw RENT.

cynseattle said...

Saw it. Liked it, didn't love it. But appreciated the artistry.

Mostly, glad it paved the way for the next generation of musicals, because that it surely did. Like "Spring Awakening," which I really like!

David said...

Yes, I was thinking of "A Chorus Line" as I read this story, too.

To this day, I haven't seen a live production, but the songs still pop into my head now and then.

You know, it just occurred to me that the same is also true of "Jesus Christ, Superstar."

Wow, that really does date me!

GeorgeTaylor said...

"Rent?" Perhaps I was already too far into "Mortgage" when it came out, but I've yet to see it. I suppose I'm part of the "Hair" generation, or at least I used to be, back when I had some. But even in the sixties -- and let me state, at that time I had as much of the eponymous feature as most of those on stage (and some of the same clothes) -- it all seemed a bit pretentious and facile and too determinedly in-your-face. Of course, we saw it in in LA, on a Mother's Day, which may have had something to do with it. Oh, damn, now I've got those lyrics stuck in my head:

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Now tell me the truth, What does "Rent" have that can top that???

MightyToyCannon said...

I may have mentioned in a prior post (or on Facebook) that I saw "Hair" on the London stage when I was 14 in 1971 (yes, do the math). Loved the show and the soundtrack and grew my hair to the small of my back.

My family also saw "Fiddler on the Roof" on the same trip. Later, in high school, the big theater production was "Jesus Christ Superstar" of all things. I never saw a professional production of JS Superstar, though I saw the movie and listened to the soundtrack plenty. I thought it was swell music. If you're wondering, I wasn't part of the H.S. production because, truth be told, I'm not a true theater geek and never really was.

Stephen said...

I was/am zany for HAIR also. The Film version is in my Top Ten Movies of All Time. I saw it on stage in London when I was 14 & it changed my mind about musicals. I must say, I was also obsessed with COMPANY when I was a youth & talked my parents into letting me fly to San Fransisco from Spokane, by myself at age 17 in 1971, to see George Chekaris & Elaine Stritch & the rest of the original cast. I was CRAZY for that show at the time. I did the stage door/autograph thing & was so thrilled. I also got major laid on that trip & I still feel all "yummy" when I think of the City On The Bay.