Staffer Reviews: Rent

Haley Robins, Editor-in-Chief

Growing up in the time before aux cords and Bluetooth, I was always listening to CDs in the car with my family. They got me a CD called “Broadway Kids: Back on Broadway.” Basically, it was basically Kidz Bop for Broadway (but I promise, it was much better). My parents played this CD for me all the time and I always remember my favorite track was the rendition of Seasons of Love from Rent. I would like to say I’ve seen quite a few musicals and I definitely have a soft spot for the musical theatre soundtracks, so picking a favorite song from a show I’ve never seen before was a bold move. I knew the musical was not an uplifting one, but I never knew what the show was really about until just recently, when it came to the Wharton Center on MSU. Being one of favorite songs, I was interested in seeing Seasons of Love live. So on a whim, my friends and I bought some nosebleed tickets in the balcony the week before the show.
The show ran from March 17 and concluded on the 19th with a matinee. I went to the Friday night showing. The house was not sold out, but relatively crowded.
When we got to our seats, I noticed that the curtains were already open and the set was fully exposed, including the orchestra, which was positioned right on stage instead of the pit. Personally, I prefer shows to open by drawing the curtains because I think it makes for a grander start to the show. Nonetheless, it worked for Rent.
The storyline follows a group of artists that are all connected in some way, trying to create a life for themselves in urban New York City. Four of the characters are gay or bisexual and one of them, Angel, is a drag queen. The show takes place from 1989-1890, which is during the time that homosexuals are living under the shadow of the HIV/AIDS virus.
To be honest with you, I thought the show was confusing and busy. You really need to be paying close attention to what is going on throughout the musical to fully understand it. Being in the balcony, maybe this was harder to do for me. Once the second act started, my friends and I weaseled our way to better seats on the main floor. Once we moved closer, it was much easier to understand the show and the lyrics and we got the general idea of what was going on. But disclaimer: we all read the Wikipedia for Rent following the show.
But I will tell you, the Seasons Of Love performance did not disappoint. I was singing along with the cast and could not stop smiling throughout the whole song.
The music is Rock and Roll based and definitely has some songs you can jam out to with friends in the car or sing to yourself in the shower. Some personal favorites are Seasons of Love (are you even surprised?), La Vie Boheme, Light My Candle, Will I, and of course, Take Me or Leave Me.
Without giving any spoilers, I would say Rent is definitely not for everyone. Although I enjoyed it, it was not my favorite show I’d ever seen, but I do think that it provided a powerful insight into what life was like for someone trying to make it in the big city and the effect AIDS had on Bohemian lifestyles in the 80s/90s. If you have the chance, I would recommend this show to anyone looking for a show with a deeper meaning and good music to go along with it. But, be prepared to be a little confused as you sing along in your seat.