I’m gonna share a personal story. In 2007 they played Seasons of Love at my mother’s funeral on repeat. I refused to forgive Rent for existing until last year.
Summer 2018, I was fortunate enough to see Angels in America not once, but twice. I loved that play and it touched me deeply. Angels in America deals with the AIDS crisis in the 80s. As I prepared for my second viewing, I realized that I would probably appreciate Rent if I let go of my baggage.
I’m so glad I did. In a hotel in Salt Lake City, I watched the film for the first time in over a decade. I rediscovered the story and soundtrack and loved them both. As a result of my protest, I left a pretty big gap in my musical theater knowledge with regard to Rent. I had never seen a live production, and I never got into the Broadway Cast Recording (as opposed to the film soundtrack).
Recently, I was very excited to hear Evan Maltby would be staring as Mark in an off-off-broadway production of Rent at The Secret Theater in Long Island City. Evan played Cedric in very first cast of Puffs, and I’ve been a fan ever since. He’s also a very nice dude. I had to go.
This production was stellar. The Secret Theater is tiny, less than 100 seats tiny. The stage was a scaled down version of the traditional Rent set. There was the scaffolding in the back and a table in front. It works; it's intimate.
Mark comes out and the show begins. “From here on out I shoot without a script.” Being in such a tiny theater (and being in the front row), I really felt like I was part of the action. I was also constantly nervous about actors tripping over my feet, but fortunately they’re pros.
I was surprised to learn how different the stage production is from the film. The voicemails were new to me, along with the much heavier emphasis on hard drugs. Rent the movie manages to wash away a lot of the darker bits.
My favorite songs to hear live were La Vie Boheme and Life Support. La Vie Boheme has so much energy, and the small theater really makes you feel like you're in the restaurant. Life Support is a beautiful song, arguably better than Seasons of Love and is really touching to hear live.
This may have been off-off-broadway but the talent was on point. All of the actors really embodied their roles and everyone was a great singer. You can take this for granted on broadway, not so much at a show in queens. I was also really impressed with the choreography and how they used the space they had.
I'm so glad I got to see this performance. Seeing a classic musical, for the first time, in a very intimate environment was special. I highly recommend it.