A live staging of Rent, the 1996 musical about broke bohemians facing the AIDS crisis, was supposed to air on Fox Sunday night. Instead, thanks to an actor's broken foot and an apparent lack of contingency planning, Fox opted to air footage from Saturday's dress rehearsal spliced together with some live scenes.
The result was... lackluster. Viewers complained that the singing was off-key and the performances seemed phoned-in, like the actors were saving their energy for the real deal—which, honestly, makes a lot of sense, because they didn't think the dress rehearsal would be the real deal.
This disappointment followed an enormous hype train: Vanessa Hudgens was playing Maureen, the character originated on Broadway by Idina Menzel. Pop star Tinashe would be Mimi, the ingenue dying from disease. RuPaul's Drag Race star Valentina, who recently came out as gender non-binary, was cast as the HIV-positive trans street performer Angel. The finale of Rent: Live would feature the original Broadway cast (many of whom also starred in the 2005 film adaptation), including Jesse L. Martin, the original Collins, who proved he's still got it when he belted out that high note in "Seasons of Love."
As you might expect, the internet had a lot of feelings about Rent: Live. In case you missed it, here are some of the major takeaways:
#RentNotLive was trending on Twitter, which gave new meaning to "No Day but Today"
Theater people were quick to question the lack of understudies. As Anna Kendrick famously said, "The goddamn show must go on"
Despite the semi-live train wreck, people were HERE for Vanessa Hudgens
Viewers were happy to see a mainstream network promoting diversity and inclusion
But the things Fox decided to censor didn't make a ton of sense...
Which prompted a bunch of people to dig up this tweet:
No matter how you measure Rent: Live, most people agreed they should have just done the damn thing live
Not that any of those problems with the production will slow down the trend of networks doing live musicals. The next one slated for primetime is Hair Live!, coming to NBC this spring. The groundbreaking show debuted on Broadway in the 1960s, and is nowadays notorious for having a bunch of full-frontal nudity, so it'll be interesting to see how NBC navigates its own musical FCC nightmare.
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