Has Rent Aged Well?

In 1996, the Rock musical, Rent, came to the Nederlander Theater on Broadway. It was based off the tragic opera, La Bohème, which is a tragic love story between Rodolfo and Mimi. It has become one of the successful musicals. It centers around the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Rent deals with a lot of controversial topics such as the LGBT community and a drug addict. Tragically, Johnathon Larson, the composer of the musical, died the day before the first preview, but his legacy lives on in the musical.

It has been debated whether or not Rent has aged well or not. I fell in love with Rent September of 2012 by songs alone. In my opinion, Rent has aged well. Just because the HIV/AIDS epidemic is long gone, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t aged well. Don’t forget, last year, we started being in the middle of a pandemic—so it does connect to that. Its message of living in the moment and living life in love is still relevant. Same with the other controversial topics. As a matter of fact, I actually can relate to the characters of Rent- yes, I don’t have HIV, but have Epilepsy. True, not the same thing, but the struggles are similar- as in the stresses, the anxiety, and the fear. I can understand what they are going through.

Just like Les Mis, I am an emotional wreck in Rent. Rent actually led me to wanting to see La Bohème. I originally started with seeing the Met’s live stream of the opera in cinemas- and eventually saw the opera in person. La Bohème was the final show I saw in 2020- it was through Opera Carolina.

Tragedies in Musicals

What tragedies are in the musical theatre world? At first glance, there really aren’t many tragedies that exist with musicals. True, there are a LOT of tragic moments, but may not necessarily be in a tragedy. So, what musicals automatically come to mind?

  1. Hadestown
  2. Miss Saigon
  3. West Side Story
  4. Rent
  5. Les Mis

How do you think I discovered the genre of tragic musicals? I learned about that genre the hard way. Les Mis was the beginning, but had to be given a 2nd chance. True, I started in the movie theatre with the film, but didn’t really know if I liked the musical or not. Good thing I gave that movie a 2nd chance in March 2013- the rest is history after that. In some ways, it was more of a combo of Rent and Les Mis that made me love tragedy. I really once thought I would NEVER love a tragedy.

Rent did led me to giving opera a chance- due to it being based off of La Bohème (which is my favorite opera). Since I love Greek Mythology, it is of no surprise that I am fascinated by Hadestown- which luckily is coming to Charlotte later this year.

Characters I Relate To- Part Two

Just a few days ago, I was talking about characters I relate to. However, as the days went on, I realized I left some very important characters off. Now, I decided to include them.

Rent Batch

Only four of the major characters have HIV/AIDS- Mimi, Roger, Collins, and Angel. However, at the same time, the impact shows throughout more than just those four. Don’t forget we are seeing life support meetings and how the disease is affecting the friends of the four characters who are living with the disease.

Yes, the characters in Rent are dealing with HIV/AIDS, but my Epilepsy is similar. What exactly do I mean by that? It has more to do with the emotions rather then the disease itself. Fear, frustration, stress, and anxiety are just four of the emotions that come with Epilepsy- those same four emotions come with HIV/AIDS.

Unexpected Struggling Characters

What exactly do I mean by this? Yes, several of my favorite musical theatre characters struggle. There are some characters that do exist that barley manage to survive. There are characters that exist that almost didn’t survive. What if I talked about some of my favorite characters that almost didn’t make it? So SPOILERS ahead.

Marius

He is the first character that comes to mind. Marius was one of the revolutionaries. He almost didn’t survive not once, but twice. He was saved not once, but twice. First, he was saved by Eponine (she took a bullet for him) and second, he was rescued by Jean Valjean (he literally went to the barricades to rescue him because his adopted daughter loves him). Jean Valjean literally loves Cosette so much that he would risk his life to save the man she loves. Marius is actually the only survivor of the barricade, which causes him to have survivor’s guilt.

Mimi

Mimi is the most fragile and vulnerable character in Rent. During Finale and Your Eyes, it appears as if Mimi is extremely weak and dying. This is the hardest on Roger because he loves her. However, Mimi wakes up and turns out she actually is going to live.

Simba

Yes, this does sound a bit unusual. However, in a ton of ways it makes sense. It is obvious that his uncle Scar wants Simba killed. Simba barley escapes death during the stampede and then later when Simba fights his uncle to gain his right to be king, it does seem as if Simba might be killed again. However, Scar loses the fight and Simba gains his right to be King.

Elsa/Anna

Well, Elsa was almost killed by Hans, but was saved when Anna sacrificed herself to save her sister. But at the time, Anna was freezing to death (meaning turning into an ice statue). However, what she did to help her sister was an act of true love, which saved both Elsa and Anna.

What other characters do you know that almost died?

Favorite Relationships in Musicals

When I am referring to relationships in this post, it is not romance. I am even aware some of my favorites are unpopular opinions. So, what are some of mine?

Rent Friends

I love this community of friends. They literally feel like family despite some of the struggles they face. They are a unique group of characters.

Newsies

This is another group of friends that feels like family. They have a strong brotherly love for each other. They have a cause (the strike) they truly believe in and are passionate about. They never give up.

Jack and Crutchie

Thinking of Newsies, I really love the best friendship between Jack and Crutchie. It is such an intimate and special bond. While Jack would do anything to protect his brothers, he would do the most for Crutchie. Jack and Crutchie are my favorite Newsies.

Friends of the ABC

The Friends of the ABC are parallel to the Newsies. Both share a brotherly love that feel like family. In addition, both groups have a cause they strongly believe in, but the result is different. The students stay passionate to the end even when they know they are going to die.

Valjean and Cosette

One of my favorite moments in Les Mis is when Valjean promises Fantine he will raise Cosette. The moment Valjean rescues Cosette is incredible, but a bit heartbreaking at the same time. Cosette made a huge impression on Valjean. That is what I love about the addition of “Suddenly” in the movie- it shows their bond a lot more.

Eponine and Marius This is an unpopular opinion. The sad side to rescuing Cosette was that Eponine was stuck with the Thenardiers the rest of her life. Eponine was raised to be a thief and criminal. She became unloved by her parents. No one was showing her kindness. Then one day, something changed—–she met Marius, who showed her kindness.

For whatever reason, she knew he was a good person. Due to his kindness, she fell in love with him. Despite the love being unrequited, they still stayed friends. Many people keep on saying he was never good to her, but I disagree- he was ALWAYS good to Eponine. Even Eponine would say that.

Here are two places where you can notice how much Marius cared about Eponine. 1) When he first noticed her at the barricade, he sent her away with a letter to protect her. 2) When she came back, Marius did ask, why? That was because he was because he was worried. When she collapsed, Marius noticed that she was shot, and that her wound was fatal. He was devastated, and he ended up staying with her; he held her to comfort her though that pain). Seriously, how can anyone not see the COMPASSION shown in that moment?

Lumiere and Cogsworth

This sounds like an odd relationship to love. I mean it is a relationship between a talking candle and talking clock.

Belle and Maurice

They are an amazing father and daughter duo. They are a bit misunderstood by the town they live in. They call Belle “odd” and Maurice “crazy”, which isn’t true. They perfectly understand each other and would protect each other. That is why Belle is willing to take her father’s place at the Beast’s castle and why Maurice is trying to get the townspeople to help him rescue people.

Elphaba and Glinda

It wouldn’t be right to have this post if I forgot to include these two. The center core of Wicked is between these two best friends. They have such a powerful and beautiful bond. They literally wouldn’t let a boy get in the way of their friendship- the love triangle in so many ways shows their loyalty towards each other. The song “For Good” really does shows how much they changed each others’ lives for the better.

Any you add any other non-romantic relationships to the list?