It has been over two decades since the phenomenon known as Rent touched down on Broadway, spawning a fan reaction like Broadway had never seen. Imagine if Hamilton arrived, but the only way for fans to experience the show was to go to New York City, stand outside the theaters for hours to get lottery tickets, and see the show over and over. It was kind of like that. Except now, here in 2019, Fox's broadcast of Rent Live can show us what it would have been like had there been social media. These tweets about Rent: Live prove it doesn't matter what season or decade it is, the power of Rent endures.
One reason Rent: Live feels bigger on Twitter than it might have done 23 years ago is how much society has changed in those intervening years. Being a Renthead in high school was to label yourself "Please Bully Me." It was an era where being openly gay at any age could get someone killed, and where no one wanted to admit socially to being part of Glee club or into theater if they wanted to be "cool."
But since then, the world has changed. Now being cool is to be openly into theater and art, and letting one's freak flag fly is championed. Over these decades, Rent has also picked up a whole new generation of fans as well. And they're all here for Rent: Live.
The opening number was enough to start the chills.
One of the reasons Rent was such an enormous hit when it landed back in 1996 was how singable the soundtrack was. Though there had been rock musicals before (and after!), nothing on Broadway had ever quite hit the 1990s grunge zeitgeist.
To be completely honest, grunge was already on its way out on radio by 1996. (The Spice Girls herald the arrival of dance pop in 1997.) But it was very rare for a musical to be that close to hitting the current genre as closely as Rent did.
Unfortunately, there was one small hitch with tonight's performance. Brennin Hunt, who plays Roger (a major role), broke his ankle during final dress. Unlike real Broadway shows, Fox's Rent: Live didn't have a cast of understudies in the wings waiting for their big break. So the first act wound up being the pre-recorded final dress rehearsal, and the second act was reworked to let Hunt perform.
This didn't dampen the spirits of those watching at home though. Rent: Live or Rent: PreRecorded or Rent: SemiLive was still enough to cause everyone at home to well up and sing along. After all the songs and the feels all must still go on. It helped that the audience was really into the show as well, helping build the excitement for those watching at home.
It's just proof that 23 years after the Broadway musical first opened, it still speaks to audiences across the generations of struggling artists who understand there's no day but today.