Last night, I had the immense pleasure of seeing Rent at the Warner Theater here in DC, with original cast members Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp. It’s all a part of Rent: The Broadway Tour making its way across the country this year.
I’ll be honest: When the idea to see this tour first came up a year ago, I had my doubts. Being a girl, and being a girl of a certain age who is a theater dork, I have loved Rent for a good portion of my life. It was the first show I saw on Broadway (not with the original cast) and I know every lyric, every note, and every nuance on the cast album. So, while I was excited at the prospect of seeing two theater icons live on stage, reprising the roles they originated thirteen years ago, I was skeptical. (The 2005 movie did not help sway my doubts any.) If this was going to be some sort of pathetic, self-indulgent tour to recapture the glory years, I didn’t want to see it. I preferred to remember Rapp and Pascal as they sounded on my CD player. (Yeah, CD player, because that’s how long it’s been.) However, everyone else in my party really wanted to go, and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. So we got the tickets.
And thank goodness we did. Rapp and Pascal did not disappoint. I’ve seen the show four times now – six, if you count the movie and Rent Live. This was, without a doubt, the best.
As a Renthead (not as obsessed as most out there, but I do love the show), seeing this show was like having a fantasy come true. They were really there, the original Mark and Roger, in the flesh, right in front of me. And what’s more, they sounded fantastic. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they were 20-something actors doing the show in its first season.
Not everything was perfect – while Nicolette Hart’s (Maureen) “Over the Moon” was as hilarious and over dramatic as it should be, the rest of her performance was too overzealous. Unfortunately, one of my favorites, “Take Me or Leave Me” was ruined by her shrill enthusiasm.
But, let’s be honest – the original cast album is so iconic, and Idina Menzel is so talented, that no one will ever live up to her “Maureen.”
Besides that number, the show is fantastic. Standout songs include “Today 4 U” (Justin Johnson is by far the best Angel I’ve seen); “Tango Maureen”; “La Vie Boheme” (an obvious choice, but seriously – to hear Anthony Rapp belt out the beginning is incredible. The audience burst into applause afterwards, right in the middle of the song.); “Light My Candle”; “Out Tonight” (I normally don’t like this song live, because it’s so physical, that the performer’s voice usually [understandably – I don’t know how they do it] suffers. But Lexi Lawson delivered.); “I Should Tell You”; “I’ll Cover You Reprise” (Also an obvious choice, but I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house after Michael McElroy finished the heart-wrenching ballad); and, finally, the real show stopper, “What You Own,” which managed to sound exactly like it does on my CD. I can’t put into words how amazing it was to see Rapp and Pascal sing that song on stage.
One would think after seeing a show six times, that would be enough. But, as a member of my party said as we left the theater, “Couldn’t you go back in right now and see it all again?” Yes, yes I could have. There is something magical about Rent. And one of the best things about it now, thirteen years later, is that it IS so iconic, and people who care enough to go again and again REALLY love the show. Being in an audience of fellow Rentheads, who also know every lyric, note, and nuance, is incredible. There’s an energy that cannot be matched.
Which is probably why, thirteen years later, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal still do the show.
Rent: The Broadway Tour is coming to a city near you. Catch it if you can – it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity that is not to be missed.
Video of the Day: A taste of what I experienced last night – here are Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal singing “What You Own” in rehearsals.