Review written on: November 23rd, 2005

Rent Review

Where to begin? Director Chris Columbus took on a hefty project when he signed on to make this film. A beloved Broadway production, being turned into a major motion picture, featuring almost all of the original main cast members. Good thing he’s had practice making faithful interpretations of beloved art. He directed the first two Harry Potter films, after all. And in making Rent he did stay faithful to the play (I should know…I’ve been listening to the original cast recording all week in anticipation).

While he took some creative license in certain scenes, in my opinion it enhanced the story. For example, while some were disappointed that the “Tango Maureen” was shown as an actual dance, I think Mark’s daydream with Maureen in the red dress was genius. I also think showing the backstory of Roger and April through a flashback was a nice choice as well.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those who didn’t have Broadway fanatics for freshmen year roommates, the story of Rent follows the lives of a group of friends in New York City. Some are gay, some have HIV or AIDS, all are artists in some form or another. It is a musical, which tends to scare people away, but originally it was a Tony Award-winning Broadway play (still is, in fact). One of the major attractions in seeing the movie is that almost all of the original cast members are reprising their roles in the film. Anthony Rapp as Mark, Adam Pascal as Roger, Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins, Idina Menzel as Maureen, Taye Diggs as Benny, and Wilson Jermaine Heredia as the lovely Angel. Joining the cast are Rosario Dawson as Mimi and Tracie Thoms as Joanne.

It was an absolute treat to see the original cast members on screen together. I was blown away by Jesse L. Martin, especially because I’ve watched him on “Law & Order” for so long and never knew it was him on the cast recording I’ve listened to so many times. Idina Menzel was absolutely incredible. “Take Me or Leave Me” is still my favorite song of all. Dawson was a shyer Mimi than I remember the character being, and despite my doubts, she did a great job. Tracie Thoms….I don’t know what to say. Her voice is beyond description. Her solo during “Seasons of Love” in the opening sequence was one of the most beautiful vocals I’ve heard in a long time. Taye Diggs played a kinder, gentler Benny than I had thought. Of course Pascal and Rapp are perfect as the artistic roomies. Angel (and to call him anything other than by his character’s name is almost a sin) was perfect. I know that’s an odd thing to say, that an actor was perfect. But seeing as how they originated these roles, I believe it’s fitting.

Overall, I was blown away. But I was a fan before I even Fandago’d my tickets. Those that have never seen the play, or were hoping the movie adaptation would tone down the musical aspect, might be disappointed. If you are a fan of the play, or a fan of musicals in general, definitely go to the theater right now. If you go into this without any preconceived notions of what it will be like, however, you might be in for a bit of a shock.

I just want to add a personal note of thanks here:
To Bianca and Kara – for introducing me to the world of Broadway, for dragging me to see “Rent” on Broadway for the first time (and convincing me to go because “there’s a guy in it that wears a leather jacket and plays guitar”), and for constantly singing the tunes that I’ve come to love. Thanks for opening my mind and enriching my life.


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