If you're a true Renthead, you're probably well-versed in the pros and cons of the original stage production versus the 2005 film adaptation. While the film included several members of the original Broadway cast, it lost a touch of the grittiness that thrived onstage. Jan. 27's Rent: Live seeks to capture the musical's rebellious side, but both haters and fans of the movie can rest assured that the live show will take a step away from the film's material. Rent: Live versus the Rent movie will likely differ when it comes to the script, but we can count on the soulful songs remaining intact.
Originally opening on Broadway in 1996 and running there until 2008, Rent tells the story of seven artists in New York City's East Village as the political and social climate around them shifts. As the threat of HIV/AIDS looms over the characters, the musical's songs carry a life-affirming theme that instills the story with an upbeat zest. The 2005 movie received flak for casting original stage actors nearly a decade after they were the characters' ideal ages, and with no former Rent stars tied to the live show, it looks like the new production has learned from that mistake.
The new adaptation's stars may be fresh faces, but some of them are accustomed to this particular TV format. Delivering an acclaimed performance in last year's Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, Broadway veteran Brandon Victor Dixon joins the Rent: Live cast while Grease: Live's Vanessa Hudgens and Jordan Fisher also reunite as cast members. Brennin Hunt, Tinashe, Kiersey Clemons, Valentina, and Mario will also appear in Rent: Live.
If you're a Rent newbie and trying to familiarize yourself with the story, its movie version is currently available to stream on Hulu. But when it comes to understanding an adaptation's faithfulness on Jan. 27, you might be better off watching the recorded version of the Broadway musical's last performance on YouTube. While composer Jonathan Larson wrote the stage production's original book, music, and lyrics, author Stephen Chbosky was recruited to write the screenplay for the 2005 film, adding some original touches that did not appear in the original show. Known for writing the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Chbosky was still a film newbie when working on Rent, but he has since written and directed the movie adaptations of both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the bestselling book Wonder.
Chbosky's Rent partnership with Home Alone and Harry Potter director Chris Columbus was practically a millennial's dream pairing, but would you really want filmmakers trying to capture a stage show's appeal on a live, televised platform? To avoid any snafus that scenario may entail, playwright Kristoffer Diaz has adapted Rent for television, ensuring that it's made with a theater veteran's expertise. In addition to working on Rent, Diaz wrote for Season 1 of GLOW, developed TV pilots for HBO and FX, and wrote the play The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
The high point of these live TV musicals is always the singing performances, but it feels particularly fitting that a theater mainstay has helped prepare Rent for this television debut. Kudos to these devoted thespians!
Rent: Live airs on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.