Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jacob Measures RENT: The Broadway Tour

Did Jacob Matsumiya, our guest blogger, turn into a RENThead after seeing the show on Wednesday night? Read his review below to find out. RENT runs through this Sunday, Oct. 25.

Many, perhaps too many, of the musicals I’ve seen recently have been something akin to candy. Sweet and enjoyable, but full of empty calories. Like I asserted in a previous post, there is really nothing wrong with candy, but a diet full of it leaves you feeling empty, bloated, and unsatisfied. It leaves you craving for something more substantial. Something you can really sink your teeth into. Something worth eating for.

In musical theater, meals of the latter kind are rare and they are becoming exceedingly so. Mainstream theater that appeals to the masses is much easier to sell in candy form. Really we are all to blame for the recent glut of nothing musicals that blow through town, amuse us, and then are forgotten as quickly as the trucks pull away from the theater. We love these musicals because they are easy. Work is hard. Raising a family is hard. The economy is hard. Life is hard. Musicals should be easy. You sit down for an hour or two, check your brain at the door and just enjoy. Nothing more.

I don’t think I realized how much my musical theater life of late has been filled with these types of shows until the cast of RENT: The Broadway Tour took to the stage last night. The spotlight pulled tight on Anthony Rapp and his camera, the band played those first electric notes, and sitting in my seat as goose bumps filled my arm I remembered what a musical could be.

Rare as they are there are musicals that transcend their medium in such a profound way that they change the landscape of musical theater forever. RENT is such a show. When it burst on to the scene more than a decade ago it took the theater world by surprise. Filled with real life, raw emotion and flawed, dare I say, damaged characters it showed life as it was not as musicals thought it should be. RENT wanted to be more. To show us more. Tell us more. Beg us to find something, anything more in our lives.

Watching the show last night I was reminded that a show doesn’t have to sacrifice entertainment to be something more. RENT in my mind is perfection. The songs are stick in your brain soulful, yet every line and every note begs to be analyzed. The cast of this current touring production is perfection. I do not hesitate to say the best touring cast I have ever seen. It helps that three original cast members – Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, and Gwen Stewart – are among them. All three are still in perfect voice and to see them there to hear their voices last night was like having the CD I’ve played so many times in my car come to life before me. It was as if I had never experienced it before. It moved me in ways I can only begin to express in words and reaffirmed my belief that musicals need not sacrifice an audience’s enjoyment for a higher purpose.

And let me tell you the audience was loving it. Every time a song began applause erupted in the theater. Every moment was cherished that much more. From the front row to the back of the third tier the frenzied excitement was palpable. RENT my friends is so much more than a musical. It is what art should be. A doorway for us to discover the things in life that are so easily overlooked and forgotten.

Michael Grief, the show’s director, wrote in the Playbill for the show’s final Broadway performance, “Everyone who gets to work on RENT grows personally and artistically. Our hearts get bigger, more open. Our minds get sharper. We’re better equipped to take care of our children and our parent and our friends and the world. We’ve learned to measure our lives in love, and take no joy or sorrow for granted.”

The same can be said I believe of every audience member who sees RENT: The Broadway Tour and opens their heart to what it is dying to tell you. Open your heart my friends. See RENT.

1 comment:

Meghann said...

Amen.