Judge Brett Cullum wants you to light his candle one last time.
Four Tony Awards, 12 years of performances, and now the last night preserved on DVD.
Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway captures the final performance of a piece that defined musical theatre during the '90s as it closed its original New York run on September 7th, 2008. The late Jonathan Larson's creation has become a phenomenon, inspiring a ravenous fan club called "Rent-heads." When the movie came out in 2005, some of these fans claimed it took too many liberties with the book and didn't capture the experience of the stage version. The only thing is the film adaptation included most of the original cast, and it was an incredible feat of movie making when translating a musical to a new format. What you get on this DVD instead of the silver screen polish is a live performance, warts and all, and it looks a little flat in comparison. It's hard to capture the energy of a stage production no matter how well filmed it is, and this one is well done. You hear the audience cheering, and you feel removed from the proceedings. Yet this is an undeniable event, so fans will forgive the process in favor of simply having the show on a home format. This is a cool way to experience the show, and true devotees will claim it as a must have. Theatre history buffs should rush to get it!
The production is filmed using multiple cameras onstage with the performers during the last week of the show. Realize some footage was taken from rehearsals especially when you see a tight shot, because they obviously didn't want to disrupt too much of the performance for the audience or actors. The widescreen transfer looks good, and it seems more "filmic" than I expected. I'm used to seeing Great Performances where televised versions of stage shows look like video rather than celluloid. The full surround audio track is also a treat delivering a robust version of the score, and some great versions of the best known songs from the show.
Included in addition to the performance are extras that elevate everything, the supplements demand this one to be examined. The curtain call performance is amazing when the original cast shows up along with many famous faces to do one more version of "Seasons of Love," which leaves not a dry eye in the house. Featurettes include a look at the last days of the show on Broadway, an occasion that is made even more bittersweet since the man who created it never even got to see it open. We get to hear the casts' thoughts about heading into the last week, and preparing to film. It runs almost forty minutes, and really does justice to the show's closing. Next up is a six minute look at "The Wall," which is a mural of fan and cast notes written on the walls of the theatre, both inside and outside the building. Then there is the recording for the Last Curtain Call where some of the original cast shows up to join the current performers, and we even get to see them singing in the wings with the cast on stage as they do the last number. Another amazing look is at the last lottery where Rent fans win a chance to see the show for $20 in the first two rows. The last featurette is on the MARFAN Foundation which was created in Jonathan Larson's name.
Rent opened officially January 25, 1996, after an off-Broadway
workshop run in 1994. The musical moved to Broadway's larger Nederlander Theatre
on April 29, 1996, which is where it stayed until September 7th, 2008. It is the
seventh longest running musical in theatrical history with 5,124 performances.
Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway is the only way anybody will ever be able
to experience the original version as it was in the theatres. Now we have so
many ways to honor the memory of Jonathan Larson and his passionate creation
that asked us to measure our lives in love.
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