Break a leg...
January 28, 2019 3:22 PM   Subscribe

Last night's live performance of Rent on Fox was not so live.

Toward the end of Saturday's dress rehearsal, the actor playing Roger broke his ankle, so most of what was broadcast was that performance to the point of his accident, and then the last 15 minutes or so was actually live with Roger sitting on a table in a cast.

Stage actors hurt themselves all the time. Sometimes it goes very famously wrong. Sometimes the actor slips off stage and is replaced. Whatever happens, the show must go on.

Bonus: origins of the phrase 'break a leg', what you say instead to a dancer or an opera singer, and why you never speak the name of the Scottish play in a theatre.
posted by wellred (81 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 




AHEM
CIRCA 1997: I rollerbladed down a couple of steep hills to middle school on the daily, as it was close to home. So, of course I rollerbladed to the spring recital of my 8th school year, where I was to be first clarinet, rival only to the the first flautist in proximity to the audience, or so I thought. God knows why clarinets are permitted to be this close to an audience of middle school musicians' parents. You'd think they'd have suffered enough.

As it happened, I stumbled over a grate in the parking lot of that school, while wearing pressed black pants, white shirt and tie, and landed on my pretty, pretty (middle school mustachioed) face. Praise the lord, I didn't break a bone or the expensive rented clarinet I was carrying, but I shredded my pants and dripped blood all over my shirt from my severely busted face...particularly from the side that was to face the audience. I didn't feel pain (from the shock or whathaveyous). So, I only became aware of my sorry state by proxy; everyone I passed on the way towards backstage gasped and fled like they'd seen a well-dressed, semi-pubescent zombie (the worst kind of zombie).

This is all to say: I did not perform that evening.

It was years later, after I'd dropped out of concert band, picked up the guitar, and become a jazz/pit style band geek, that I was informed by the young woman/clarinetist who'd replaced me that evening: she'd always hated me for being first clarinet and had hoped something terrible happened to me. It was only after I face-planted so pathetically on my rollerblades that she felt bad about her fantasies, and worried she might be a spooky witch or something.

That's how I feel now. Because I hate RENT, and I wanted that production to fail. But I never really wished any harm on the players. If nothing else, RENT is the inadvisable rollerblades of a young artists' career.

posted by es_de_bah at 4:18 PM on January 28 [50 favorites]


One of the sweeter things I've seen at the theater involved Sweeney Todd at the Shaw Festival a few years back. (Yes, I know that "sweet" and Sweeney Todd do not normally appear in the same sentence. Hang in there.) I saw the final preview before the show officially opened, and we were warned that some stuff might go wrong. One of the unplanned things that went wrong, however, was that the actress playing Mrs. Lovett had an emergency and was unable to perform, so her poor understudy had to go on for her...without any rehearsal. Amazingly, the actress was off book, made only one mistake (which was better than several other performers managed that afternoon...), and did a fine job. At the curtain calls, the actors took a mass bow first, then stepped forward for their individual acknowledgments. The understudy got huge applause, as you can imagine--and then her Sweeney refused to take his own bow and had her take another one instead.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:30 PM on January 28 [42 favorites]


Rent's kind of a love-or-hate situation. I'd probably be on the hate side, as I'm about 10 years older than the major fanbase, except that I worked at summer camp with kids who sang along with the cast album with irresistible joy.
posted by wellred at 4:38 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


The ratings were the lowest for any of the live TV musicals that have aired in the last few years. Fad-wise, it feels like this one is played out.
posted by briank at 5:14 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I didn’t even know it was on.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:17 PM on January 28 [7 favorites]


I wouldn't have either if a friend hadn't invited me over; I don't watch live tv enough to have seen the commercials.
posted by wellred at 5:18 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


We didn't even know about it until the actor's ankle injury started trending on Twitter. Sort of a costly PR move?

Anyway, that sucked me into the black hole of Twitter posts about the show, probably two-thirds negative from my skimming, but one positive post stayed with me: No matter how dated or hokey or whatever Rent is now, fact remains that the Fox TV network -- Fox! -- just carried a resoundingly positive, loving portrayal of LGBTQ people into millions of homes that otherwise might never see that.

Just wish I could see the faces of people who tuned in looking for Hannity or something and seeing Angel and Collins dancing down the street and singing of their love.
posted by martin q blank at 6:06 PM on January 28 [13 favorites]


The thing is... Rent was the Hamilton of its day. It's hard to remember how gigantically big a cultural moment it was from today's perspective.

I don't understand why they can't do these live productions actually in a theater in front of a live audience. Or fucking hell, just start filming Broadway productions and broadcasting them, like they used to. That was slowly relegated to just PBS and even that seems to be faltering now except for the Met which is doing its own filming for theater broadcast and then selling to PBS later.

So annoyed that more live theater isn't being broadcast and so annoyed that what does end up on television are these mega-event one-offs with little or no soul and way too much hype.
posted by hippybear at 6:17 PM on January 28 [51 favorites]


Fox the entertainment company is different that Fox the news perpetrator. No surprise they would have something like Rent on. They wouldn't be showing Hannity or whoever on the Fox network.
posted by lhauser at 6:43 PM on January 28 [9 favorites]


I was pleasantly surprised, actually. I thought the sound editing was muddled, but the actors did a mostly credible job. I was more amused than annoyed picking out the censored lines, which were generally awkward. They kept more intact than I expected, and the heart was there—I cried through the entire second half after Brandon Victor Dixon nailed the I’ll Cover You reprise. I’ll always have a soft spot for RENT.
posted by impishoptimist at 6:43 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Between the incredibly pitchy singing, muddled sound, and shrieking audience making the former two elements even worse, I gave up not long after the first commercial break when they announced that Rent Live wasn't actually live.

Gee, if only understudies were a thing.
posted by TwoStride at 6:52 PM on January 28 [7 favorites]


I'm married to a Rent OBC originalist, and I have been privy to several extended rants about how badly they shit the bed on this, but also that it was unsurprising that it went down this way for various reasons of casting and liberties taken with lines and lyrics. However, I am told that Brian Stokes Mitchell was the saving grace of the whole thing.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:06 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Why did they mic the audience
posted by schadenfrau at 8:01 PM on January 28


I mean, are understudies not a thing?

I lost it at the censored and changed lyrics, myself. What is wrong with this country?
posted by rokusan at 8:25 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


What were they censoring/changing?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:42 PM on January 28


One-time show, major cast announced well in advance as a way to sell the show, chances of needing an understudy is pretty slim. Would you pay the wages required for an understudy who would never be used?

I fully agree there should have been an understudy and I also understand the pressures that led to there not being one.
posted by hippybear at 8:46 PM on January 28


It was very noticeable to me that the actors with extensive stage experience, such as Brandon Victor Dixon (his I'll Cover You (Reprise) is, some quibbles with the mix aside, a damn fine performance) and Vanessa Hudgens, went for it and were treating the dress rehearsal like the real deal, while the screen stars were decidedly not. The Broadway actors are pros at this, and it showed in their performances.

Also, JUST LEAVE THE CAMERA STILL FOR AT LEAVE FIVE SECONDS AT A TIME. It will not kill you. Yes, I know you're afraid people will mistake it for PBS Great Performances episode, but there are some heavy songs here, you're playing into the theatricality of it, it's really totally ok to just let a moment land without a crane shot.

The funny thing is that they still had a live audience last night for the not-very-live show, so the cast came out and performed a concert version for them that seems like it was pretty great, perhaps better than what they did air. And the audience just recorded all that and tweeted it out because I guess Fox was in full DGAF mode at that point and let the audience film.

What were they censoring/changing?

Here's a list of the changes. Some represent some really interesting new ideas (Angel's gender identity), most are to keep the network's standards department happy, and a few are just weird (I do not know what they were thinking with Seasons of Love).
posted by zachlipton at 8:56 PM on January 28 [9 favorites]


I am told that Brian Stokes Mitchell was the saving grace of the whole thing.

Ah, if only he had been in it.

That awful audio mix, combined with not really being a fan of Rent, almost had me turn it off. But theatre nerds gonna theatre nerd.

(I too have said "Rent" was for GenX what "Hamilton" is for millennials. I OTOH am a late baby-boomer "Chorus Line" person.)

But not being a big Renthead (or familiar with most of this cast) means I didn't have stringent expectations re performances. Lots of tweeters were trashing Angel, while I found their performance sassy.

(However Angel killed a dog wtf? I vaguely know someone who was close to Larson, I should ask him if JL did not find that problematic and out of character.)

The Roger actor bored me, Mark was OK, Mimi was hot and cold.

I hope the live (or even recorded) TV musicals do keep on. It's fun to live tweet. The live theatre events shown in movie theatres are also a spectacular way to catch some recent shows. I've very much enjoyed performances I've seen of the London "Follies" and NY "Bandstand," among others
posted by NorthernLite at 9:02 PM on January 28


Forgot to mention Hudgens - yes, she was pretty good, decent follow up to her "Grease" appearance.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:04 PM on January 28


(I too have said "Rent" was for GenX what "Hamilton" is for millennials. I OTOH am a late baby-boomer "Chorus Line" person.)

If I'm being completely honest, I discovered the brown Jesus Christ Superstar album when I was about 10 years old, so around 1977-78... And that entirely changed my world.

Although much later in life, I was in a production of Godspell and I've always sworn I won't do any other theater ever again but I'd do a production of Godspell tomorrow.

Chorus Line was also a part of that for me. I saw a touring production (I think the first touring production which is always top-notch) with, of all people, my father, when it came around in my tween-early teen hood. It was the first really big touring production from Broadway I'd ever seen and it completely blew my mind.
posted by hippybear at 9:24 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


So annoyed that more live theater isn't being broadcast and so annoyed that what does end up on television are these mega-event one-offs with little or no soul and way too much hype.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Theatre_Live
posted by lalochezia at 9:29 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Rent's kind of a love-or-hate situation.

I am here to say that it can be both at once!

Angel's gender identity

Related.
posted by naoko at 10:41 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]




JUST LEAVE THE CAMERA STILL FOR AT LEAVE FIVE SECONDS AT A TIME. It will not kill you.

Yeah, the producers of all live events assume we have no attention spans, and need to cut to a new angle all the time.
posted by mikelieman at 11:53 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I've seen footage of Ruthie Ann Miles performing in The King and I in London after the dreadful accident that befell her and her family. All future "performed while injuring" stories are tabled for at least the rest of the decade.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:03 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I've seen footage of Ruthie Ann Miles performing in The King and I in London after the dreadful accident that befell her and her family. All future "performed while injuring" stories are tabled for at least the rest of the decade.

Checks Google. Holy shit.
posted by Optamystic at 2:13 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Rent was too late to be Gen X’s Hamilton. Don’t forget Les Misérables! Personally I am a play not musical person, my thing was Angels in America, but my peers? Les Mis all the way.
posted by wellred at 2:50 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


I like both Rent and Hamilton. A lot.

Rent was a revelation when it came out. I recall the backlash being pretty immediate, though.
posted by kyrademon at 3:56 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I didn’t love a lot of aspects of this particular production, but I was startled at the level of generalized RENT hate coming from the Cool Kids on Twitter. There was a backlash in the 90s, but I assumed it was due to overexposure. I guess people just really hate it, along with anyone who enjoys it.

I mean, yes, sure, there are some bits of the show that never quite worked for me. But if you hate the general earnestness, which seems to be the overall complaint… what are you doing watching any Broadway musicals?
posted by snowmentality at 4:18 AM on January 29 [5 favorites]


Rent was definitely my Hamilton. But I was too late to be GenX and too old to be a Millennial. I'm glad I didn't try to watch this nonsense. My sisters and I can perform the whole thing start to finish without looking at a book TO THIS DAY.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 4:18 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I mean, yes, sure, there are some bits of the show that never quite worked for me. But if you hate the general earnestness, which seems to be the overall complaint… what are you doing watching any Broadway musicals?

The general complaint I saw, and was reminding people of, is that RENT is lifted heavily from lesbian activist Sarah Schulman’s novel People In Trouble, to the point that she wrote an entire book about it. good interview with her here. The play trivializes, deradicalizes, And hetrosexualizes the plot, which includes a very thinly veiled Trumpian landlord as the villain for whom the performance art at the end is intended to murder. It is a real world example of the central thesis of Schulman’s other work, Gentrification Of The Mind, Which I recommend everybody read if they want to get at how Queer pain was absorbed by capitalism and sold back to straight people, by straight people.

Or if you just want to be blunt about it, how do you make a play about AIDS and the LES that only mentions ACT-UP once?
posted by The Whelk at 4:49 AM on January 29 [23 favorites]


Wow, I'm gonna have to reread People In Trouble. Thanks The Whelk.

Rent was a revelation to kids, absolutely, just like Les Mis, just like Hamilton. But Rent wasn't a revelation to people who lived the story, and that's part of what I think was missing in the production - these weren't theatre kids living in 90's New York like the original cast (or most of the original cast). New York was a whole different place then, and the people in this cast are mostly already successful in some way. Vanessa Hudgens was a Disney kid! and she's 30 now anyway.
posted by wellred at 5:02 AM on January 29


The other complaint about rent is how just about everyone in it is an entitled douchebag freeloader except the "bad guy" (who gentrified by pushing artists with middle class families out to let black people in?!?)

There's the literal dog killing Angel, the pretentious "shooting without a script" douchebag Mark who manages somehow, without caring at all about craft be only the second most pretentious artist, Mimi trying to persuade her ex to fall off the wagon, Maurine the Performance Artist (she at least is admittedly played for laughs). Meanwhile they treat everyone around them badly from seriously taking advantage of Benny to using a homeless person as a prop for Mark's art to the way they trash the restaurant. And then there are the parents - I don't think a single one of them doesn't want to see this group again or even says anything bad about their choice of partners. The two most demanding I remember are "honey will you come to this event for us and dress appropriately" and "honey, can we get you a nice cushy job as a director when you've decided to stop being the person being sung about by Jarvis Cocker in Common People?"

If I were a conservative and asked to explain why I dislike social liberalism a very strong case would be to tell them to see Rent and put themselves into the shoes of any character except the leads.
posted by Francis at 5:31 AM on January 29 [13 favorites]


But if you hate the general earnestness, which seems to be the overall complaint… what are you doing watching any Broadway musicals?

Maybe they're Sondheim fans.

Tbh, as an earnest teen who may have been one of the first on the Rent backlash train, based on the reviews and the hype I expected something more like Sonic Youth: The Musical than My Fair Lady. And aside from the unexpected earnestness, I was not happy that dog murder was supposed to be funny and charming, that Angel dies while Mimi lives, and I was very, very, very unhappy with and felt kind of attacked by the character of Maureen.

At this point in my life, I do have a soft spot for Rent, a memory of being young and having the time to obsess about theatre, and I could probably sing the entire cast album if asked.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:59 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


I first saw Rent well after the hype died down. I had just moved to Boston for a summer job and the traveling production came through town. As a still-in-the-process-of-coming-out teenager just starting to really live away from home, it was heady stuff. I fell in love. It's the only show I've chosen to see more than once. (I've seen La Cage Aux Falles twice, and that was a fine time too, but it was more because of circumstances than something I would've done myself.)

Each time it lost a little bit of the charm. More recently I watched this critique by Lindsay Ellis that touches on a lot of the same points discussed above, and now I don't think I can go back.

Count me among those who didn't even know this broadcast was happening until after.
posted by brett at 6:06 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


The play trivializes, deradicalizes, And hetrosexualizes the plot

The other complaint about rent is how just about everyone in it is an entitled douchebag freeloader except the "bad guy" (who gentrified by pushing artists with middle class families out to let black people in?!?)


Rent rant ahead: Rent is AIDS crisis-poverty tourism for the privileged, and it's always been gross. I was 14 when Rent came out, and had just watched my gay dad die in that crisis, in actual poverty, after having lost all of his friends the same way, and suddenly my entire generation romanticized that shit because of a musical about entitled children who actually think "selling out" is the worst thing you can do.

Seriously, the only people in that musical who make ANY goddamn sense are the supposed villains. Benny has offered to help you and you're setting fires? Maureen is the only one who understands that they could maybe actually make something successful and sustainable with the exposure from the "riot"! and that network television woman works SO HARD to give Mark a fucking job and he won't take it. All of which neutralizes any sense of affirmation in the face of hopeless tragedy because it's not fucking hopeless, they're doing this to themselves, Jesus Christ.

Basically Rent is exactly what you would get if a privileged straight man decided to exploit the AIDS crisis for an audience of privileged straight people. I also don't think it's particularly good as a musical, but it was topical and a lot of people saw it at a formative time in their lives and it became...a thing. I think part of that was the narrative of Larson's tragic death, which, at the time, people totally assumed was really because of AIDS. Like people were definitely accustomed to reading between the lines of death announcements for young men, at that point. I think that was part of its initial buzz in New York which...also seriously grosses me out.

ANYHOO. Vanessa Hudgens made it really clear why she's famous, and probably they should hire musical theater people for musicals. It, uh, makes a difference.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:09 AM on January 29 [19 favorites]


Yeah the Ellis video I linked to , it does go into depth that a broadway musical, being as it is a product of finished theatre, cannot be expected to really confront and condem the system that includes the people who buy the expensive tickets to see the play - so you have to critique it from the point of that product and ....ooo boy.

That being said it was a lot of people’s First Musical so I get why there’s still affection for it, but seems to be fading. It is the most By Tourists For Tourists production.
posted by The Whelk at 6:10 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Wasn’t it Fox who also broadcast that new version of Jesus Christ Superstar? (Which I thought was terrible, but I was raised singing the original cast recording.)

I, too wish that networks were recording shows that the rest of us can’t get tickets to see, like Hamilton, or releasing old broadway hits like Into The Woods with Bernadette Peters. Or hell, even showing the Canadian broadcasts of Gilbert and Sullivan.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:25 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


When we were watching (a small group), we were talking about how similar the set was to the JCS production and what else could be done on it.

West Side Story came up.
posted by wellred at 6:27 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I think there's also just an issue with putting musicals on tv. They always lose a lot, even when the production isn't incompetent, because musicals aren't created to be on a screen, they're created to be performed live. That's a big difference in medium! Really big!

Broadcasting it live is probably the only way to approximate a musical's true medium, so when you take that away because one dude broke his foot...

Idk. That decision, to go with the taped rehearsal, is totally baffling to me. Can you imagine how much we'd all be cheering for them if they'd done it live anyway with whatshisface in his wheelchair? All of them coming together to pull it off last minute in true theater form?

Just baffling.

Also just that article about Ruthie Ann made me cry.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:34 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


I guess they did actually kind of do the show for the audience while the rehearsal footage was playing?
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:36 AM on January 29


I would have loved to see it with Roger in a wheelchair. His character doesn't really dance, and wheelchairs do not preclude dancing on the whole. It would have required a little rehearsal to make it un-hokey, though, because the way he was reacting to Mimi being carried in at the end would have been majorly improved with a little practice.
posted by wellred at 6:48 AM on January 29


Yeah, a lot of Rent hasn't aged well and I thought it was perfectly fair for Millennials on Twitter to have zero patience for "being paid for a job is selling out!"
posted by TwoStride at 6:49 AM on January 29 [11 favorites]


Les Miz Generation Xer here. Normally I'm a huge fan of the hokey meet cute musical, but this one is just so powerful. I saw it in 1989 and again in 1992, right around the time I graduated from college and therefore had to come up with my first adult email and BBS passwords. To this day, all my passwords have to do with Les Miz.

I like the concept of live musicals on television (which of course, used to be the norm) but am surprised at the intensity of the reviews and reactions, on both sides (not here on Metafilter). It's just a brief night of entertainment, people; the choice of show (Sound of Music, Peter Pan, etc.) and actors is not going to make or break the universe.
posted by Melismata at 7:47 AM on January 29


(I too have said "Rent" was for GenX what "Hamilton" is for millennials. I OTOH am a late baby-boomer "Chorus Line" person.

I would've said that Rocky Horror was the GenX Hamilton or at least it was for my cohort of mid-to-late '60s peers.

but it was topical and a lot of people saw it at a formative time in their lives and it became...a thing.

I often think of Rent as if someone said "St. Elmo's Fire, but make it gayer. Not too gay, mind you, just a little." And it gets made at a time when the entertainment industry is discovering that a little gay sells, but really gay is still a turn-off.

(Want a fucking moment? Here's the original Broadway cast performing "Seasons Of Love" at the 1996 Democratic Convention, 26 August—a month before the Defense Of Marriage Act became law.)

So, yeah, Rent's very much of it's time. I don't hate it. Taken individually, the songs are still catchy and occasionally moving. I have a Rent one-sheet in my house! And I welcome the FOX audience to the 1990's. They're gonna love it. But even more than a lot of cultural products, it definitely needs to be viewed in the context of its time and, as The Whelk points out, the context of its production.

(Offhand, my own short list of favorite musicals would probably include The Pirates of Penzance, West Side Story, Rocky Horror, The Wiz, Thank God It's Friday, Into the Woods, and Cabaret.)
posted by octobersurprise at 8:48 AM on January 29 [5 favorites]


Next up on NBC: Hair Live! I hope the live musical trend never dies.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:28 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


So many things that are problematic (and seriously, as a grown up, I'm gonna go with Benny over Roger any day though I acknowledge that Taye Diggs made that 100% easier. )

HOWEVER, I made the terrible mistake of clicking on the link of Brandon Victor Dixon's I'll Cover You reprise at work, and it took about 5 seconds to start crying. You guys, it's a really good 90's musical.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 9:29 AM on January 29


The general complaint I saw, and was reminding people of, is that RENT is lifted heavily from lesbian activist Sarah Schulman’s novel People In Trouble, to the point that she wrote an entire book about it.

.....I thought that it was based on La Boheme?

Gen-X here; Chorus Line was my early teen years jam, Les Mis was early 20s. By the time Rent came along I'd been living on the Lower East Side for a few years already and my go-to joke was "I don't need to see Rent because I actually live there." Seriously, one of the locations in the show is a restaurant that was about a ten-minute walk from where I lived.

I did always like "Seasons of Love", though, I admit. And I was at the same acting studio as Jesse L. Martin, a year behind him, and we got into a nodding acquaintance just from passing each other in the hallway so I've always looked kindly on him. (Super nice dude.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I generally agree with all of the criticisms upthread. I'm also in deep fucking trouble at home for mixing up Brian Stokes Mitchell and Brandon Victor Davis in my earlier comment.

Yeah, a lot of Rent hasn't aged well and I thought it was perfectly fair for Millennials on Twitter to have zero patience for "being paid for a job is selling out!"

Heh. The late David Rakoff levelled a similar critique.

Rent hasn't dated well, and had a variety of problems to begin with. But. It's worth remembering that the Broadway of 1996 featured Big. The musical. That's right. Big. The musical.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:54 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


.....I thought that it was based on La Boheme?

Both borrowed the structure of la boheme but there are specific plot beats, characters and devices taken from Schulman in Rent, Which the links go into.
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 AM on January 29


A PERPETUAL ORAL LEASE WOULD FALL UNDER THE STATUTE OF FRAUDS UNDER NEW YORK LAW

Whew. Sorry. I've been holding that in for a while.
posted by praemunire at 11:07 AM on January 29 [10 favorites]


Maybe praemunire's comment is when we link to Team America: World Police?
posted by wellred at 11:24 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Maybe they're Sondheim fans.

*raises blood-soaked hand with straight razor in it*
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:30 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


Re the GenX musical: if a generation is 20-25 years, the entire generation isn't going to have a single musical as their cultural touchstone. It's entirely believable that it might be Rocky Horror for older GenX, Les Mis for mid-GenX (guilty), and Rent for young GenX. I suspect older millennials might choose Wicked rather than Hamilton as their primary formative influence.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:34 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I took my 16 year old to see the 50th anniversary of Hair, this year in Dallas. it was awesome. I hope the nbc casting agents grab that entire cast.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 2:09 PM on January 29


I suspect older millennials might choose Wicked rather than Hamilton as their primary formative influence.

As an older millennial I can answer this one for you: the older millennial RENT is, uh, RENT. In my circle of late 90s summer camp nerds, it wasn’t just the musical, it was the social mortar for the socially awkward AND the queer ur-text for those of us trying to figure ourselves out who were too scared or shy or physically unable to get to the LGBTQQIA+ shelves at the bookstore (not that they were called such at the time).

I’ve also seen it mentioned as a touchstone by friends younger than me. My completely anecdotal, half-assed observation has been that I’m more or less in the middle of a “LGBTQQIA+ and came of age on RENT” cohort stretching 5-7 years in either direction. Much older or younger than that and I’ve been much likelier to hear criticism without the “it meant a lot to me when I was a kid, but” disclaimer.
posted by bettafish at 4:37 PM on January 29 [8 favorites]


Couple of personal anecdotes that this struck in me:

Break a leg/show must go on. I ran the light board for a local version of 1776 and needed to change out an instrument right before the show started. We kept our lighting gear above the dressing rooms essentially in an attic. As long as you walked on the ribs your were fine. Due to how close we were to curtain, I was in a rush and missed one. My foot went straight through the drop ceiling and I could have sworn my foot was broken. I missed a cue early on and the Stage mgr. was all over me. My pain level was about 7 out of 10 and I remember saying, "I have a fucking broken foot, okay? Give me some slack!" 5 minutes later, she had returned with a 5 gallon bucket full of ice-water. I worked the rest of the show with one foot in that bucket.

(I am also fond of the break a leg story that curtain calls were not guaranteed. If the appluase generated it, you got to go "break a leg" by bowing at the knee.)

"The Scottish Play": It is the original TTTCS. :-D

As far as RENT itself goes, I couldn't say whether or I like it or not. I did the light design for a local production of that about 5 years ago, so I have intensely fond memories of that experience. We had a stellar band and an amazing cast. The actually lighting was incredibly challenging, but satisfying when complete. I will never be able to separate working on it from watching it. I don't think I have ever even made it through the movie because I just want to watch our production again.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:24 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


But. It's worth remembering that the Broadway of 1996 featured Big. The musical. That's right. Big. The musical.

I'm actually kind of sad that I never went to the Big musical -- I remember feeling pretty derisive about it back in 1996 based on the buzz. And then some years later I read the book "Making It Big: The Diary of a Broadway Musical", and everyone involved seemed to have been so earnest and well-intentioned that the flop was kinda heartbreaking in retrospect. (And, having bought the cast recording, I really loved some of the songs -- particularly "Stop Time", the mother's lament)
posted by oh yeah! at 7:58 PM on January 29


The cast recording of “Big: The Musical” was one of the first CDs I ever bought.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 PM on January 29


This could easily become a thread about the musicals we've bought scores to or seen which were not giant hits but which were entirely awesome. My B-house would be Nunsense, but my A-list would be Secret Garden.
posted by hippybear at 9:59 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Man, RENT. I have a lot of love for it, but also have generally tried to stay away from it the past few years. It's like many movies you loved as a child -- re-watching is just going to make you realize the awful parts you didn't pick up on. I still enjoy a bunch of the songs, but I can't not see how shitty the "good guys" are, and how ridiculous it is for a story about the AIDS crisis to focus primarily on two straight white guys, including a fair bit of time spent on how awful it is for the one who doesn't have AIDS (despite him having apparently supportive parents, and job prospects). I ended up seeing a performance not that long ago because it was part of a season pass for a local theater, and it was like half "yay!" and half "... awkward ...".

(On an unrelated note, can I use this thread to say I finally saw Cats because it was part of a similar season pass, and ... what the fuck? How did this not destroy Andrew Lloyd Webber's career? I knew some of the music but had never seen the whole show, and jesus h. christ. 30 minutes in my wife turned to me and asked "does this have a plot?". At intermission we had a serious discussion about leaving. The reprise of Memory almost made it worth it because the performer did a really stellar job, but I also at one point thought if I heard the word Jellicle again I was going to murder someone)
posted by tocts at 6:15 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]


mandolin conspiracy: I'm also in deep fucking trouble at home for mixing up Brian Stokes Mitchell and Brandon Victor Davis in my earlier comment.

Wait 'til they find out you called him Brandon Victor Davis!
posted by tzikeh at 10:51 AM on January 30


MetaFilter: How did this not destroy Andrew Lloyd Webber's career?

I have a soft sport for the Joesph though, the more absurdly earnest the better. In the UK, they had a honest-to-god reality TV competition to choose the new Joesph for a revival. When they announced the winner (12-year spoiler alert), Lee Mead, they presented him with his very own colored coat and sent him out to do a final "Any Dream Will Do" (with Lloyd Webber and the other judges joining in on the oooohoohoos) as he sings this absurdly over the top "give me my colored coat" with a huge shit-eating grin to celebrate winning the show, and yeah, if you're going to do it, be that incredibly into it.
posted by zachlipton at 1:31 PM on January 30


Oh, I love me some Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Joseph is ridiculously great (or greatly ridiculous?). But wow, Cats. WTF?

It's like a jukebox musical except instead the basis is a book of poetry, and the only other thing brought to the table is so-so dancing with zero goddamn story. I can almost imagine it working if it was like, Cirque-level acrobatics. I can also totally see how you could have made a story of it. Instead, we got about 20 songs introducing characters who then do nothing but be present, and a story that is, summarized: there's these cats that get together once a year for a party, and they did, and now it's over.

(and if we're keeping track, Les Miserables was my Hamilton. I got a cassette tape of the original London cast recording from a friend around age 10 and then basically listened to it in my walkman till it wore out. Somehow I convinced my parents to take me to see it, and OMG, so conflicting: both amazing, but also I am a super hardcore original London cast partisan, no US recording or performance has ever lived up to Colm Wilkinson, Patti LuPone, and Roger Allam)
posted by tocts at 3:30 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Ah, UK vs US original cast recordings of Les Mis! It's been so long I can't remember which, but one of them I liked over all better, except their Javert just didn't have as deep a voice and was inferior to the other version.
posted by tavella at 3:33 PM on January 30


But wow, Cats. WTF?

The cast don't even look like cats. The musical should have been called "Fucked Up Garbage Clowns" because that's what they looked like.
posted by thelonius at 3:48 PM on January 30 [5 favorites]


Hope you’re all excited for the upcoming Cats movie.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:19 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Him, UK OCR of Les Miz is substantially superior to the US OCR, although the show was in a different form at the time so there are songs in the UK version that aren't in the show at all anymore.

I have, on cassette, the original French Concept Album for Les Miz. It's also different in interesting ways.

I think the recording I like the best is the Complete Symphonic Recording for various reasons.
posted by hippybear at 5:53 PM on January 30


I'm in complete agreement on the Complete Symphonic Recording for Les Mis.

I like most of the Cats songs as individual songs, but yeah, no way it holds together as a coherent story, and when I finally got to see it I was distinctly underwhelmed.

Hope you’re all excited for the upcoming Cats movie.

Based on the previous comments I assume you were being sarcastic, and I was not excited for the upcoming Cats movie...until I clicked on the link and, wow, that is a hell of a cast. Now I am a bit excited for it.

Meanwhile, back to the topic of Hamilton and Les Mis: if you haven't seen this before, please enjoy Lin-Manuel Miranda doing the offstage "Loud Hailer" part in a performance of Les Mis.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:31 PM on January 30


Hope you’re all excited for the upcoming Cats movie.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:19 PM on January 30 [1 favorite +] [!]


For any time that one is having trouble falling asleep, this sounds better (and safer!) than any Valium or other sedative.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 8:00 PM on January 30


So, I've actually seen Cats three times in two different languages.

The thing to realize is, the show is a dance and song recital. It's not a story. It's a series of production numbers, some of which involve the company, some of which have featured players. The heavy lifter singers in the show (Deuteronomy, Grizabella, and others) aren't characters that dance heavily. The chorus/dancers do all the heavy lifting for the show.

The two productions of the show I've seen in English were both touring companies of varying quality. I think the first one I saw was an A company while the second one I saw many years later was a C group.

But when I saw Cats in Germany, in German, it was an installed, long-running production. There's something to be said about when the entire theater is a junkyard and there are effects built into the environment all around you, cat eyes and lights and stuff. Also, the German cast I saw was by FAR the best as far as singing and dancing and presenting in their space.

I genuinely like Cats, but its not a musical as we think of musicals. It's a dance recital with songs.

ALW has played with form forever. Song And Dance is another good example. One half all dramatic song performances, one half a dance recital. Aspects Of Love which is, like, 3.5 melodies used over and over for 3 hours. He's always liked playing around a bit.

I'm more a Sondheim person, personally. But ALW, especially with Tim Rice, is very quite lovely and strong.
posted by hippybear at 8:24 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Early morning, lying-awake-in-bed thought: The reason changing "three years" to "six months" in "Life Support" was dissatisfying is because it dropped the internal rhyme between the first syllable of "reason," "three," and (slant) "years."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:01 AM on January 31


hippybear: I genuinely like Cats, but its not a musical as we think of musicals. It's a dance recital with songs.

ALW has played with form forever.


As this came directly after my comment about sedatives, I want to clarify that I do not actively dislike Cats. OTOH, if the freaking website for the show has "the musical" in the name I would like to see it play somewhere closer to form. (Or call it a new type of musical or the next generation of musical or a different type of musical or.....)

I love those who play with form and push boundaries and while I have not seen all of ALW's work, I cannot think of a musical he made which I didn't like. I even enjoyed Cats when I was 8, mostly, I think, because of the hype around it and OMG A CAT TOUCHED ME ON THE WAY TO THE STAGE TO START THE SHOW. When I saw it again some decades later, I can empathize with those who were sold a musical and instead, to paraphrase hippybear, ended up with a dance recital.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:47 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]


and, wow, that is a hell of a cast.

Taylor Swift in a production of Cats with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench is one of those things that I never knew I wanted until I was offered it and now I need to see it.

I started thinking about Les Mis and I remembered that there was a moment when it was the rage among my circle of friends—1990-ish—and even recalled a Christmas party when everyone danced drunkenly to "Master Of The House."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:16 AM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Les Mis is so burned in the brains of my peers that a few years ago at my birthday karaoke (shush) we ended the night with a glorious group rendition of One Day More. No one really needed to look at the screen.

I saw Cats when I was very young, I guess it was on tour in Boston? And tiny me loved the spectacle. ALW just DOES spectacle. Sometimes it also makes a good musical, e.g., Jesus Christ Superstar.
posted by wellred at 10:43 AM on January 31 [2 favorites]


OMG A CAT TOUCHED ME ON THE WAY TO THE STAGE TO START THE SHOW

Obligatory Simpsons on audience interaction. Anytime the cast starts coming down the aisles, I am Marge.

Then I'm also reminded of Natalie Walker's "If ur lucky u may be given a LETTER . If not, u have to deal w the fact that no one in the ensemble found u visually compelling . Sorry!"

I guess what I'm saying is that the fourth wall doesn't extend beyond my personal space, ok?
posted by zachlipton at 2:08 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


I've just found out that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's final season devotes an episode's subplot to Cats, complete with a "OMG A CAT TOUCHED ME ON THE WAY TO THE STAGE TO START THE SHOW" moment, and it's blowing my mind.
posted by zachlipton at 7:54 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


A variation on this theme: I was supposed to play Cheswick in a local production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but during tech week, I was hospitalized with cellulitis. I'm in a wheelchair, so the director, who replaced me onstage, himself played Cheswick in a wheelchair because everyone else on stage was used to interacting with me. I found it a sweet tribute by necessity.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:21 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]




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