by Rachel Chodor
The 1996 musical Rent made famous the lyrics “525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.”
Ironically, no one should waste a minute seeing the Off-Broadway revival of this classic, which is now playing at New World Stages in Manhattan.
Playwright Jonathan Larson took the theater world by storm when his Rent debuted in 1996. The rock musical is an inspirational story about a group of friends trying to make it in the East Village of New York City. Rent was one of the first Broadway shows to tackle subjects like AIDS, drugs and the bohemian lifestyle.
Unfortunately, if Larson were still alive to see the return of his musical, he would not be too impressed.
Primarily, the new cast wasn’t as strong as the original. While most of the actors were effective individually, they didn’t seem to connect with one another.
The biggest weakness was Arianda Fernandez, who played Mimi, the female lead. During her song "Out Tonight," she seemed to have a great deal of vocal strain. Additionally, it looked as though she was acting for a soap opera; she executed each line so melodramatically that watching her scenes was unbearable.
The other performers were enjoyable by comparison. Adam Chanler-Berat put on a great performance as Mark, the narrator. Although Annaleigh Ashford didn’t look like the Maureen most Rent fans are familiar with, she shocked the audience with her powerful voice.
Also, the theater itself had its own problems. Rent’s original home was at the Nederlander Theater, which has 1,200 seats. The New World Stages only has 499 seats, which made for a claustrophobic atmosphere. Also, the theater was loud, making it hard to understand what the cast was saying, and the set blocked the majority of the audience’s view.
Since Rent debuted in the 90’s when the East Village was grungier and AIDS fear was at its peak, the plot unfortunately does not resonate with today’s audiences. Thus, the unrelatable plot in combination with a less-than-stellar cast made for a disappointing rendition of this popular musical.
If you never saw the original Rent, don’t let the Off-Broadway version ruin your idea of the musical. Pick up the original soundtrack or buy the movie adaptation instead.The 1996 musical Rent made famous the lyrics "525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear."