30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #21 - RENT
Today we continue the 2014 edition of our annual BroadwayWorld feature series spotlighting the very best Tony Awards-related moments of all time with a special focus on a revered and one of a kind rock musical which also won the Pulitzer Prize, RENT.
One Song Glory
A cultural touchstone with few modern-day equals, RENT is one of the only musicals to cross over to the mainstream in the last 20 years and that is undeniably attributable to its instantly addictive and hugely ingratiating score composed by Jonathan Larson. Although the original Off-Broadway production was unfortunately gravely shaded by the fact that Larson passed away during previews, the community aspect and familial themes of the musical - many of which were unabashedly drawn from Larson's own life - caused the cast to come together to form a close-knit company the likes of which we rarely see on the Great White Way. Somehow it was as if attending the musical with the original cast at the time allowed you to be a part of this incredibly talented, enviably inspired and exuberantly artistic family for a few hours and share in this uniquely enjoyable celebration of the life of the man who brought them all together and crafted this miraculous show as a means to best showcase their copious skills. And, what a show it was!
Featuring raucous rock, grooving R&B, earworm-exploding choruses and complex, dense dramatic musical scenes aplenty, the score for RENT is awe-inspiring and awesome in its sheer audacity, let alone in its nearly unbelievable success in pulling off so much - dramatically, thematically, musically and otherwise - so very seamlessly. Of course, "Seasons Of Love" would become the breakout hit of the tune-stack, but the charms of the challenging and endlessly entertaining score do not stop there. Surely, a catchier or more of-the-moment Act One Finale had not been heard on Broadway prior to "Finale A" and "Finale Be", while the title song is as emblematic of the musical it figures into just the same as many in the Golden Age tradition were and are. Without a doubt, it was the merging of rock with musical theatre - of Springsteen with Sondheim, as it were - that made RENT stand out so much at the time, and what makes it still count to this very day.
Plus, that cast! Although Wilson Jermaine Heredia was the only original cast member to take home a Tony that year, the corps were brimming with major musical royalty on the rise - Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Jesse L. Martin among them. Of note, the musical also took home Best Musical as well as Best Score and many more top honors, as well, in 1996.
So, now, view the original Broadway cast of RENT performing "Seasons Of Love" on the 1996 Tony Awards.
Also, see the original cast reuniting for a special anniversary performance at the 2008 Tony Awards.
As a special bonus, view Wilson Jermaine Heredia's touching speech.
What precisely is it about RENT that appeals to your sensibilities most? Is it the iconic original cast? Is it the superlative score? Is it its overall cultural impact? Whatever your reason for loving it, RENT reminds us all that life is really all about how you live and not how you die. Viva la vie boheme!