Blu-ray Review: Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release date: Feb 3rd, 2009
MSRP: $38.96

Find anyone under the age of 35 who did theater in the five years before or after the millenium, and they will probably know every word of Rent. In the late nineties, my friends and I would drive around town, hair all Manic Panicked, smoking unnecessary cigarettes, blasting “Seasons of Love” and singing along like dorks. It didn’t matter that we were lily white, drug-free, Midwestern college students who had never been to New York–or so much as met a person with HIV–this musical was for us and about us, and Jonathan Larson (who, famously and tragically, died of an aortic aneurysm the night before the show he wrote debuted off-Broadway) was our patron saint.

Loosely based on Puccini’s tragic opera La Boheme, Rent is set in New York’s Alphabet City, and tells the tale of a group of starving artists, including several infected with HIV. Inspiring a legion of followers (known as “Rentheads”…what else?), Rent won four Tony Awards including Best Musical, as well as the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Sadly, the 2005 film version, directed by Chris Columbus, was a slickly produced disappointment. While it was fun to see most of the original Broadway cast onscreen, the film version lacked the vibrant heartbeat of the live show. Elaborate sets and production numbers distracted from Rent’s anti-establishment vibe, lines that were spoken rather than sung fell with a thud, and the exclusion of several songs outraged fans.

Thank goodness, then, for the BluRay/DVD release of Rent’s final show on Broadway: it’s like a little gift to anyone who ever rocked out to “Today 4 U”. It is a no brainer that any fan will need to own this, but I also strongly urge anyone who thinks they don’t like musical theater to give it a try, as the show is free of the corny razzle-dazzle that is generally associated with Broadway musicals, and full of humanity, integrity, and a rebellious spirit that will make you want to quit your 9-to-5 and start that band you never got around to when you were twenty.

Bonus Features include a retrospective on Rent’s final days on Broadway, and documentaries on the Nederlander Theater, a glimpse at the famous backstage wall, and a history of casting Rent.

Viva la vie Boheme!

Order the DVD of Rent from Amazon.

Jill Lynch
For more reviews from Jill, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.