'Rent Live' Wasn't Entirely Bad, But It Could Have Gone Better

'Rent Live' Wasn't Entirely Bad, But It Could Have Gone Better

And it could have actually been live if they'd just had an understudy!

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This Sunday, FOX had the first "live" TV musical of 2019: "RENT." And I put the word "live" in quotes because... because 99 percent of what aired was actually pre-recorded from Saturday's dress rehearsal.

Unfortunately, Brennin Hunt, the actor playing Roger, broke his ankle during Saturday's final rehearsal. FOX announced that since Hunt certainly couldn't move around the stage, portions of the show would be from the Saturday recording. But apparently, FOX interprets "portions" as "all but the very last scene."

And unfortunately, the fact that this wasn't the real live performance showed. Let's break it down.

The good:

1. The ensemble

Insert the heart eye emoji here because the RENT ensemble was so amazing. This ensemble was filled with talented individuals pouring their hearts into every word. The harmonies were always beautiful and powerful, nearly making you cry during numbers like "Will I" and "Seasons Of Love."

2. Praise Brandon Victor Dixon

Brandon Victor Dixon (BVD) was a shining light in this show. Having just done "Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert" last spring, we all knew he can act and sing like no one's business. Plus he was in "Hamilton" as Aaron Burr.

He was very underappreciated in "Rent," however. "I'll Cover You" saw his mic being dropped, leaving one of the typically wonderful harmonies between Collins and Angel to TOTALLY DISAPPEAR because Valentina was struggling to have air to maintain the note. One of the only actors with actual Broadway cred, the man can belt and nearly made me cry during "I'll Cover You (Reprise)."

3. Valentina acted a wonderful Angel

While Valentina didn't have the strongest vocals for the role, that girl acted her heart out. It was clear this role was important to Valentina, and she nailed the sassiness and boldness we all love in Angel. Valentina was hilarious to watch and perfectly on beat during "Today 4 U."

Her and BVD were a great Collins and Angel: sweet and heart-warming, breaking your heart when you remember what happens later on...and again near Angel's end. Watching BVD carry her around during "Without You" tugged on my heartstrings.

4. THAT SET.

The set was insanely cool. I love that they kept the scaffolding-style set, with parts all around to fully immerse you n the show. This kept some of the show's heart and roughness in there. Kudos to the set designer(s) for creating an amazing set/jungle gym for the cast to move around on.

5. Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen + Kiersey Clemons as Joanne = DAMN.

Vanessa Hudgens BROUGHT IT as Maureen. I wasn't 100 percent sure if she would be a good fit, but she nailed the character and made it her own. "Over the Moon" was perfectly overdramatic and absolutely hilarious. (Also, Jordan Fisher's face as he's holding the curtain while Hudgens is hooked into her harness was HILARIOUS.) Hudgens really got to show off her singing and acting chops in this show, reminding everyone that she's no longer Gabriella from "High School Musical."

Kiersey Clemons was the perfect Joanne to Hudgens' Maureen. Their vocals blended so well together, and I loved their rendition of "Take Me Or Leave Me." She brought out more of a 'tude in Joanne, which I liked. And oh my lord, the "Tango: Maureen" was FIRE. Clemons and Fisher were hilarious and their vocals worked so well together. Clemons showed that she knows how to move with flair.

6. Keala Settle had an actual role, not just the high notes!

I love how they had Keala Settle come in to sing the high notes of "Seasons Of Love," but didn't just have her do that. They gave her a real part in the ensemble, which I liked. Having her as the person running the AIDs group meetings added some sentimentality to her appearances throughout the show, especially at Angel's funeral.

7. Mimi (Tinashe) and Roger (Brennin Hunt)

I didn't 100% love either of their performances, but they acted their respective characters well and had some pretty good chemistry. Tinashe really nailed the character's heart and roughness.

8. When the original RENT cast showed up at the very end

I almost cried when the cameras turned and the curtain went up to reveal THE ORIGINAL RENT CAST. My heart felt so full to see them, and in the iconic line too. This was a beautiful end to a show that was definitely frustrating and heart-hurting to many.

The bad:

9.  WHY WERE THERE NO UNDERSTUDIES?

Every single theater person knows you ALWAYS cast understudies. ESPECIALLY for shows as intensive and as popular as "Rent." Welcome to the theater, Fox: you have to be prepared for anything, and there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't have understudies.

It was so frustrating to be promised a live production, only to receive a pre-recorded show that honestly could have just been uploaded to Netflix at that rate. I would have preferred to see the concert version the cast gave for their studio audience while the recording aired. From the footage I've seen, it looks so much better than what we got!

Lesley Goldberg, a TV editor and reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, tweeted the following, and if you're a theater person like me, you know how BS this is:

Ever heard of "the show must go on?" Clearly not, if your idea of that is "let's air a pre-recorded version for a 'live' musical."

10. The main casting vocals...could have been better

Valentina, poor baby, was struggling to sing her notes. I will credit the fact that it was a dress rehearsal and she probably would've been a bit more prepared if they were doing the actual live show. Fisher has a great voice, but he has a softer tenor voice with none of the edge you typically hear (think Anthony Rapp's vocals). Hunt, too, sounded like he was forcing the edge in his voice. Also, he fell flat in "One Song Glory" - so many lines could have been more rounded out, but they were just...meh.

11. The changed lyric assignments

I'm not even going to start on the changed lyrics. You could have started a drinking game on that alone, so let's move on from that.

"Seasons Of Love" and "La Vie Boheme (Reprise)" both had the wrong people singing certain parts, which took away from the intentions of having the original roles sing those lines. Like taking Collins' line of "In bridges he burned/Or the way that she died" and giving it to an ensemble member took all the heartbreak out of the line because we know what happens to the person he loves.

12.  Entirely unnecessary expository monologues by Mark

What on earth was up with those expository monologues? They were entirely unnecessary and frankly, awkward. At this point, we all know at least the basics of what "Rent" is about - and anyone who wasn't familiar with the show and tuned in for the names definitely would have Google'd that. In particular, the monologue before the first life support meeting was clearly meant to be impactful and show just how prevalent AIDs still is, but it took one out of the show and back to modern day - during a show taking place in 1991.

13.  "I'll Cover You" was a disappointment, not the romantic duet it should be.

Don't get me wrong - acting-wise, the chemistry between Collins and Angel was so there. But everything else was disappointing. Brandon Victor Dixon was clearly singing but for some reason, his mic was waaay low. And Valentina, poor dear, was struggling to maintain breathing and hit her high notes. For a duet as beautiful and sweet as "I'll Cover You," this was not my favorite performance. I will say that the staging was cool, and I loved the playground elements.

14.  NO ICONIC LINE STAGING FOR "SEASONS OF LOVE."

They didn't do the iconic line staging for "Seasons Of Love" and that really took away from the number, sentimentality-speaking.

15. Confusing standards of what was/wasn't censored.

Explain something to me: If you're going to censor curse words and so on, HOW ON EARTH WAS "CONTACT" NOT TAKEN OUT?? It's literally an orgy and VERY clearly about sex...

The meh:

16.  "La Vie Boheme," the least boring song, was boring.

"La Vie Boheme" is supposed to feel like a party, make you want to get up and dance. This...did not. The music was bare and understated, mostly piano - where was the guitar? The bass? The intensity of the instruments that normally make this song pack a punch? They also cut the waiter's bit in the middle, for what seems like absolutely no reason - certainly not censorship. I will give Fisher this, he was perfectly overdramatic as Mark in the song's beginning.

17.  Interesting camerawork choices

There were so many times the cameraman was SHAKY. It was honestly frustrating and took you out of the moment. Also, there were Too. Many. 360. Pan. Shots. It was dizzying and honestly, just took away from the scenes rather than adding whatever effects the director or whoever thought it would add.

18.  Jordan Fisher was a decent, but not super amazing, Mark.

Jordan Fisher as Mark was not my favorite casting choice. Fisher has a beautiful voice and yes, he does have performance cred ("Hamilton," "Grease Live," Disney Channel's "Teen Beach Movie"). But I just didn't feel like he was a great casting call for this role. His Mark had none of the grit and roughness the character is supposed to have. It's one thing to bring something new to each rendition of a show, but it's another to cast aside a character trait entirely.

However, he did add some sass to the character and meshed well with his fellow characters. As I said before, he was amazing and hilarious in "Tango: Maureen." His character's good, long-standing friendships with Roger and Collins were prevalent in how comfortable the three always acted together - clearly the result of true friendships that formed during rehearsals.

19.  Post-production? What's that?

Considering Fox had the benefits of using post-production tools since majority of what aired was pre-recorded, it's really, really ridiculous that they didn't clean up the sound and re-record any vocals that fell short in the original recording. That could have helped the show's quality.

20.  YOU DON'T STAGE DIVE IN THEATER.

Having Roger and Mark STAGE DIVE and heavily interact with the audience during "What You Own" not only ruined a scene that's supposed to be a moment of realization for the two characters, but destroyed any concept of "fourth wall." It immediately took you out of the show. This is theater, not a concert.

At the end of the day...

"Rent Live" wasn't horrible. It definitely could have been better, but it wasn't the worst thing ever. Frankly, I would have loved to watch what was actually happening on the stage: the concert-style version of "Rent" the cast was giving for the audience. But hey, that's what YouTube is for!

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The End Of The Semester As Told By Todd Chrisley

Because we're all a little dramatic like Todd sometimes.
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The last 3-4 weeks of every college student's semester are always crazy hectic.

We have last minute assignments, group projects, and exams all squeezed into the last few weeks before break.

Sometimes we all need a little humor, and sometimes we are all a little dramatic, so why not experience the last few weeks of the semester as told by the king of drama himself, Todd Chrisley of "Chrisley Knows Best."

1. Sitting in class listening to your professor explain upcoming assignments/exams.

2. When your group project members refuse to do anything until the night before it's due or just show up the day of to present.


3. When you and your roommate try to cook with whatever few ingredients you have left in stock.

Because we definitely want to avoid going to the grocery store at the end of the semester if we can.

4. When your parents get tired of you calling them about every little inconvenience in your life.

5. Sitting down to work on assignments.


6. Your thoughts when the professor is telling you what they want from you out of an assignment.


7. When you've had about 30 mental breakdowns in two days.

8. Trying to search out the class for the right group members.

9. The last few days of classes where everyone and everything is getting on your nerves.

10. When your friend suggests going out but you're just done with the world.

11. This. On the daily.

12. When all you want to do is snuggle up and watch Christmas movies.


13. Studying and realizing you know nothing.


14. When your finals are over and it's finally time to go home for break.


You're finally back to your old self.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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The Top 10 Gay-Themed Commercials That Should Be Celebrated

Gay-themed advertisements are an important part of our representation in pop culture. Here are the ten best gay-themed commercials that deserve celebration.

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Advertisements have a long history of reflecting and influencing popular culture. As someone from one of the boroughs of New York City, I've always been surrounded by advertisements. So it is extremely obvious to me why representation in these advertisements matter. Commercials online and on television are no exception. As a gay man, I'd like to present you with ten commercials that make me feel a sense of pride.

1. Israeli Gays Get Distracted On The Beach

Israel is a safe haven for LGBTQ people living in the Middle East. While places like Saudi Arabia and Iran treat gay men horrifically by enforcing Sharia Law, Israel welcomes them with open arms. That open minded attitude was even more obvious with this commercial from 2006.

2. Pepsi Brings Out The Confidence In One Guy (With A Gay Twist)

This Pepsi ad from the UK has a comedic twist that will delight the viewer with the main character's confidence. I find the women's reaction to him passing by each of them even more humorous than his friend's reactions.

3. Doritos Gay Sauna Contest Entry That Could've Gayed Up The Super Bowl

This commercial was created as a contest entry where aspiring filmmakers could create commercials for Doritos. The winning entry would be aired during the Super Bowl and the filmmaker would win a cash prize. This viral smash didn't make it, however. It seemed unfair, as several straight-themed commercials feature tons of innuendo. Unfortunately, it seems as though gay male sexuality is still threatening to some.

4. Campbell's Soup Portrays The Adorable Gay Household We All Wish We Had

This Campbell's Soup commercial is a short and sweet depiction of two gay dads sharing a sweet moment with their son. If it proves anything, it's that gay households are just like any other.

5. Marriage Equality Gets An Endorsement From Tide

While marriage equality has been a source of debate over the years, the only thing wrong with this union was the attire chosen for it. A brilliant twist ending courtesy of Tide.

6. This Heinz Commercial Is A Gay New Yorker's Dream Come True

As a gay man and a New Yorker, this commercial makes me very happy. Affection between same sex couples hasn't always been something we could see on television. However, this Heinz commercial squashes all that.

7. A Sweet And Unexpected Coming Out At McDonald's

This McDonald's commercial from Taiwan features a twist ending that is heartfelt, not comedic. For anyone who has struggled coming out, this should hit you right in the feels!

8. Sister And Brother Fight Over The Hot Pool Boy... With Coca-Cola

A nice bottle of Coke is quite refreshing. Who knew it was the perfect ice-breaker to approach your crush? This ad features a brother and sister competing for the pool boy's attention. However, it seems like someone else beat them at their own game.

9. This IKEA Commercial Was A Historic Turning Point

This classic IKEA ad from 1994 was groundbreaking for gay representation in advertising. It would be remiss of me not to include this important commercial on the list.

10. What Happens When Your Dad Sets You Up On A Tinder Date?

It's always nice to have your parents acceptance. However, even for gay guys, parents can get a little too close for comfort. This Vote Savvy ad portrays just that. But hey, they mean well, right?

Whether comedic, heartfelt, or provocative, these ten commercials have done wonders for gay male representation in advertising. It also reflects the representation of gay men around the world. From Israel to Taiwan to the UK, these commercials reflect the growing acceptance around the gay community. As far as I'm concerned, that's something to be celebrated.

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