What could have been a groundbreaking performance for “Rent” and live theatre fans everywhere turned out to be more ‘meh’ than ‘over the moon.’ “Rent: Live” now ranks as the least-watched live television musical event in recent years.
A live performance of the hit Broadway musical was set to premiere on FOX on Jan. 27, however, during dress rehearsal the night before, Roger actor Brennin Hunt broke his ankle. This resulted in a last-minute decision to broadcast tapings of scenes from dress rehearsal the night before in lieu of the live performance.
“Rent: Live” was advertised as just that: live. The anything-can-happen thrill of attending a live show often highly contrasts with the feeling of a pre-recorded show. In fact, the art of theatre has been centered around this very aspect since its birth. If a show is advertised as live, it should be.
It is understood that with a major production such as this, success relies on a highly selective cast and crew, but the production should be prepared for the worse. The role of the understudy was created to solve problems exactly like Hunt’s unfortunate accident—so why wasn’t there someone to take his place?
Even without an understudy, some altered version of the show could have gone on instead of the half-hearted performance the world received. The live studio audience sat through a performance that resembled an enthusiastic table reading. An epic improvisation may have been more exciting than what premiered.
Although broadcasting the dress rehearsal made for a convenient solution for the production crew, it made for a disappointing performance for audiences. The vocals, choreography and enthusiasm were lacking from the star-studded cast and crew during the pre-recorded scenes, but this cannot be entirely blamed on them.
A dress rehearsal doesn’t require the same excitement and energy as the real thing because a dress rehearsal isn’t meant to be the real thing. A dress rehearsal is meant to verify the entire coordination and effectiveness of the show without having the pins and needles of performing in front of a live audience.
Credit should still be given where it’s due to the actors. Jordan Fisher, who played dorky filmographer Mark Cohen, effectively captured the essence of his character and Hunt was perfectly edgy and brooding for the role of Roger Davis. Greatest Showman actor Keala Settle, who played various roles in “Rent: Live,” slayed her solo in “Seasons of Love”.
“Grease: Live” actor Vanessa Hudgens truly shone as the star of the production, bringing enthusiasm, action and plenty of sass to her performance as Maureen Johnson. The last fifteen or so minutes were also packed with energy, and there’s good reason for this contrast with the less-than-expected majority of the show: the ending was live.
Members from the original Broadway production joined “Rent: Live” actors on stage to finish out the show with a bang. The ending almost made the entirety worth watching and was tear-worthy to say the least, however, it just does not make up for the spectacle audiences were hoped for. Hopefully, future live television broadcasts will take note of the lack of ratings and mixed reviews from “Rent: Live’s” premiere and will prepare for the inevitably of last-minute mishaps.