on November 16, 2005
I first saw Rent in 1996. That year was quite a year for me. I first tested positive for HIV, my lover died of AIDS, I was an addict at that time. and I saw Rent for the first time (the first of 6 times over the past almost 10 years). Those who claim that Rent is trite, or meaningless, that the characters aren't real clearly haven't been exposed to the things I have in my life. Rent is relevant on so many levels.
So many talk about their favorite songs from this recording, and there are so many different lists of favorites, as Rent shows we are all individuals and our spirits are all drawn to different things. Interestingly, my strongest connection is to "Will I?" I never see that listed on any list of favorite selections, but for me it is incredibly moving. For all 6 of the shows I've been to, I've been lucky enough to get the $20 "night of" seats in the front row. Each and every time, "Will I?" turned me into a sobbing mess. Why? Well, every day for the past almost 10 years, I've asked myself the same questions. They are pretty much ingrained in the soul of every HIV+ person I know. These are fears and apprehensions that touch each of our souls deeply.
The rest of the CD is also beautiful. Let's face it, this was supposed to be raw and real, and not meant to be another Phantom or Les Mis.
Finally, the reprise of "I'll Cover You" has great meaning for me. Living in San Francisco in 1996, I knew a few people in the business and was able to get the music early on. It was performed live at my lover's memorial service and I have to say it was one of the most memorable moments of my life.
Has Rent changed my life? Probably not. My life was changed enough without Rent. I will say that it has helped me to put words to my life, to things that are hard to put words to.
I can't say this CD will change your life. I can't say that this recording is still relevant to our world today. Give it a shot, you won't be disappointed.
No Day But Today....
"Rent" is one of those musicals where Barbra Streisand is never going to cover any of the songs on one of her Broadway albums. The pastiche of music styles reminds me of "Hair," "Godspell" and "Cats"--there are 43 tracks, including a reprise of "Seasons of Love" featuring Stevie Wonder singing with the 15-member cast--and to a large extent "Rent" also shares with those shows the ensemble nature of the cast. But just because the songs from this show are not destined to be Broadway standards does not detract from their power. These are songs driven by character and context more than melody and voice, reflecting pretty much the complete spectrum of musical styles. You have straight forward rock-and-roll in "Rent" and "Goodbye Love," but also everything from Gospel in "Seasons of Love to the Tango in "Tango: Maureen." More importantly, what stands out in the performance of these songs is how the characters are more prominant than the voices: Adam Pascal as Roger, Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi, Anthony Rappas Mark, Jesse L. Martin as Tom, Taye Diggs as Ben, and Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Angel. This is a story with songs and the intergration of the two is something you would expect much more from an opera than a traditional musical.
This would make sense since "Rent" was inspired by Puccini's opera "La Boheme," but knowledge of the "original" is not at all necessary, although when Collins loses his coat ("You Okay Honey") that will bring a smile of recognition to those who are in the know as will a couple of guitar riffs. The main thing is that if we are talking opera, that means at least one of the lead characters will be dead by the time the curtain rings down. Certainly in that regard "Rent" is a sobering story, with the additional pathos of the death of its creator Jonathan Larson on the day the show opened. Instead of poverty we are now dealing with the dregs of society, people afflicted by drugs and disease. Thus we have Roger, the song-writer and ex-junkie struggling with writer's block and Mimi, the beautiful junkie from downstairs, as well as Collins and Angel, both HIV-Positive. These are people who celebrate the New Year remembering those they have lost and wondering who will be next. The East Village industrial loft that is the setting for "Rent" is a place where those abandoned by the world find comfort in each other and the philosophy that there is always "No day but today." I keep coming back to the idea that "Rent" is one of those theatrical experiences we hear tell about from time to time, richly deserving of the Pulitizer Prize and well worth catching on tour.
on June 18, 2005
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to see the original cast of "Rent" during its first year ... and was totally blown-away by the production!
The cast was full of great new talent, including Adam Pascal ("Aida"), Anthony Rapp ("You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"), Daphne Rubin-Vega, Idina Menzel ("Wicked", "The Wild Party"), Taye Diggs ("The Wild Party", "Chicago") and provided such energy to Jonathan Larson's thought-provoking & emotional production. With it's rock-based arrangements, a whole new generation was introduced to theatre!
The cd itself makes for a great pop/rock album & gets better with repeated listenings.
Though most are terrific, best tracks include:
One Song Glory
Light My Candle
I'll Cover You
La Vie Boheme
Seasons Of Love (the show's most notable hit)
Take Me Or Leave Me
What You Own
If you prefer to listen to only the songs (as opposed to the whole score), try the "highlights" single disc cd. Both are terrific!
on May 5, 2000
Joy. Hope. Life. Love. Those are just a few of the words that come to mind when describing RENT. Others would include "brilliant", "powerful", and "amazing". Yes, the hype has been a bit much lately. The interviews, the advertisements, the talk shows. Yet RENT manages to encounter each and every one of those and still engulf the audience and all of Broadway in a sea of energy and melody, changing what was becoming a dying and stale art form. RENT has brought back the "hipness" to Broadway, but does not lose any of the theatric traditions that make up a great musical. Its complex plotline includes such Brodway taboos as AIDS, homosexuality (a part of it, but NOT it, drug use, S&M dancing, and, probably the biggest nineties Broadway no-no, substance.
All that being said, the highlight of RENT, as is with any musical, is the exciting and stirring pop-rock score contained in this two hour CD. The late Jonathan Larson was able to almost flawlessly combine traditional theatre music with modern-day rock, pop, and gospel; not an easy feat. Sondheim once said that pop music and theatre can't combine because pop music does not emphasize the lyrical structure of a song. Larson has, in this writer's opinion, proved him wrong. RENT is influenced incredibly by Stephen Sondheim. The "Tune Ups", which many people hate, are genius. Larson was somehow able to do what nobody after Sondheim could do- combine modern-day vernacular with music and melody and yet still make it sound "natural". An even better examples are the songs "Light My Candle", "Happy New Year", and "Goodbye Love". Each track is a giant flowing conversation with enough melody to sing along to.
But despite the influence of Sondheim, RENT also has its number of solos and ensemble numbers which, if done correct, could be hits. "Out Tonight" and "Rent" are two energetic rockers with great guitar hooks and intelligent, slightly punk, lyrics. "Without You" is a soft and beautiful melody which is likely to tear your heart out. "What You Own" has cynical lyrics like Rage Against the Machine ("When you're living in America... you're what you own") but a tune more reminiscent of Third Eye Blind, or other catchy pop-rock bands. "One Song Glory" is an amazing solo about accomplishment before death. Other highlights include: "Take Me Or Leave Me" (a soulful duet), "I'll Cover You" (a love ballad for two men), "Will I?" (a heartwrenching ensemble number about AIDS), and "La Vie Boheme" (a toe-tapping and racy song celebrating non-conformity). Interestingly enough, "Seasons of Love", the general favorite, is probably the weakest song in the whole show. It doesn't really add much to the plot and has lyrics that are only powerful when seen on stage.
Sad to say, the energy in RENT (such a crucial part of the show) is very often lost in the recording. "Glory", probably the best number in the whole show, comes off as almost whiny in this recording. Adam Pascal's hoarse voice, though wonderful live, is not powerful when heard on this CD.
Still, quibbles aside, RENT is a powerful show and this recording is an accomplished testimony to its brilliance. Both poignant and hilarious, one finishes listening to this CD ready to go out and make something of himself- because, after all, there is "no day but today".
on June 17, 1999
RENT!!! What can I say about this musical that hasn't already been said. It really is a masterpiece. It's seems that some people feel you can either like this or you can like an Andrew L. Webber type musical. That's wrong. "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Misrables" are two of my favorite musiclas. RENT is another one. It is so different. The way Jonathan Larson was able to convay pure emotion so clearly just blows my mind. You don't have to have AIDS or be struggling with sexuality. Or be a struggling artist to get it or even identify with it. And the vocals on this album are astounding. Adam Pascal (roger), Anthony Rapp (mark), Fredi Walker (joanne), Taye Diggs (benny), Daphne Rubin-Vega (mimi), Idina Menzel (maureen), Wilson Heredia (angel), and Jesse Martin (collins) Have the best voices ever. You really believe they are these people. My God. It brings tears to my eyes everytime I listen to it. I could go on and on about the sheer perfection of this album but I would still not be able to come close to explaining how wonderful this album really is. It's impossable to listen too without feeling a tide of emotion. "Measure Your Life In Love"
on May 21, 2004
I loved this album which suprised me because I'm not a theater type person. I got it because of the recommendation. My one comment though is that the reviews are so right - I mean can Adam Pascal sound any more like Rikki Travolta? That's cool and everything because I mean that's why it was recommended. I just think it's kind of errie. Two guys should not sound so much alike. That's not the whole album. He's just one part. Everyone rocks though. The songs really said something but at the same time were very powerful musically. There wasn't that trade off that you get a lot with theater music.
on November 11, 2001
If there is anyone reading this review who is uncertain about purchasing the soundtrack to Rent, WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU CONFUSED ABOUT?!?! What is holding you back?? Rent is the most touching and hip musical to electrify Broadway's normally quite "tame" stage. Focusing on eight main characters: Roger, Mark, Mimi, Angel, Tom Collins, Maureen, Joanne, and Benny, Rent is a truly amazing play. Though very different than plays normally seen in New York, Rent is nothing less than a masterpiece. Rent is about being young, being scared, and being in trouble; Having hope in today and faith in tomorrow. It's about living each day to the fullest and making a mark in the world. If you haven't witnessed the best musical ever, go see it NOW. If you won't be able to see it anytime soon, then definitely pick up the double cd cast recording. The music is utterly fantastic. Some highlights include: One Song Glory, Out Tonight, La Vie Boheme, of course Seasons Of Love, and What You Own. And remember: No Day But Today!! Viva La Vie Boheme. Viva RENT!!!
on April 12, 2004
The guy who sings the part of "ROGER" sounds exactly like Rikki Travolta. I LOVED his singing and the whole album. I listen to it every day.
on December 1, 2005
Johnathan Larson's music in Rent answers the question: how do you make life meaningful when it is meaningless? His answer: through creation and creativity.
Larson's creation follows the lives of seven friends, each willing to shake off convention and worship individuality. They struggle to establish lasting relationships with those that they love and face society with HIV in their blood. Rent updates Puccini's opera La Boheme for modern audiences. It adds both dimension to the story and its own special funk to the music.
Rent has everything. If you want exciting songs that will fill you with energy, Rent has "La vie Boheme" and "Another Day." If you want soothing love songs, Rent has "Light My Candle" and "I'll Cover You." If you want songs with humor and wit, there's "The Tango Maureen" and "Happy New Year." In one sitting, you can laugh, cry, think about existence, and enjoy just purely fascinating music.
The humor in Rent is unmatched. Awkward situations, such as Mark meeting his ex-girlfriend's lesbian lover, are made doubly funny in music and rhyme. Rent is also filled with cultural references, which adds to humor as well. In "La Vie Boheme," the friends sing that "Dorothy and Toto went over the rainbow to blow off Auntie Em!"
Rent makes lips smile but also eyes cry. It addresses seriously the situtation with the AIDS epidemic. When the AIDS victims sing, "Will I lose my dignity, / Will somebody care?" Larson effectively explores people's fear of death and need for community. Rent goes on to explore how living in the present can help calm this fear and fill this need. HIV-positive Mimi deals with her fear by getting rid of regret of the past and worry of the future. She sings, "There is no future, there is no past / I live this moment as my last." The emotion is overwhelming.
Rent does not only play at emotions; it also envokes philosophic thought. In "Another Day," Mimi sings, "I trust my soul," and Roger replies, "Who says that there's a soul?" Rent explores not only the question of the soul, but also the problem of fate, the mystery of love and the pain of alienation. Also, in keeping with its existential flavor, it does not give definite answers.
In addition, just the music of Rent makes it worth getting. It's extremely catchy. Just as a warning, you might be humming "La vie Boheme" for weeks after listening to the CD for the first time. Furthermore, the singers in the 1996 Original Broadway Cast Recording add power to the roles through their powerful, spirited voices. In "Seasons of Love," Fredi Walker (Joanne) has an incredible solo in which she adds intricate musical ornaments and adds spice to her role.
Rent lives up to what it preaches. Originality, creativity, and artistry make life worth living and Rent worth listening to.
on February 22, 2006
Ever since the movie came out, the debate over which soundtrack is better has been raging wildly. There are positive and negative aspects to both, and one can't be clearly labeled as "better" - it all depends on what you're looking for.
The 1996 Original Broadway Soundtrack:
This soundtrack, much more than the movie one, does an excellent job of making you feel like you're in the theatre again. Since the original show was a more or less constant song and the soundtrack includes all of the 20-50 second pseudo-songs, you can listen to the soundtrack and visualize practically the entire show. The underproduced quality enhances this experience: it feels more real than the movie soundtrack does.
The 2006 Movie Soundtrack:
The other reviewers are right when they say this soundtrack is definitely the better sounding of the two. Much better production, and the actors have all matured vocally. Rosario Dawson's voice is much easier to listen to than the original actress'. This also feels distinctly more like a soundtrack, where the original feels much more like a score.
The question is: which do you prefer?