Low Rent

The musical may be popular, but it’s no Puccini.

By John Stiles. 

RentCoverRent, the Broadway phenomenon and winner of four Tony awards as well as a Pulitzer, began its National Theater Tour last month after 12 years playing to SRO audiences in New York. In expectation of the enormous marketing opportunities presented by the Rent tour, Sony Pictures managed to film the very last Broadway performance of the original run. Now you can not only see Rent over and over again, but you can watch a charming special feature wherein several thousand die-hard Rent fans vie for seats in the first two rows in a special Rent version of The Amazing Lottery. Rent, Sony would have us believe, is the sort of theater (and Blu-ray digital experience) that comes along once in a generation. “Rent can change your life,” the myriad bonus features (some of which are only available on Sony Blu-ray) veritably shout from the back cover. But as I remarked to a friend pressing me to join him on a “life-changing” spiritual retreat, I like my life just fine the way it is, thank you.

 Whether you elect to buy this product, simply rent it, or eschew it entirely will almost certainly be determined by which of the following descriptions comes closest to sounding like you. One, Rent was a life-changing experience validating your decision to indulge your youthful fantasies well past the point your friends and family called seemly.

Your Rent's overdue: the Broadway cast do it for the last time.

 Two, you were once pleasantly entertained by the energy and earnestness of the Rent experience, but you didn’t then and don’t now see yourself as a Bohemian.

 Three, you haven’t a clue what any of this is about. If you’re in this third category (or either of the first two really), do yourself an enormous favor and find the 1988 film version of the classic Puccini opera upon which Rent is based. It’s called La Boheme, and it stars Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti. Seeing, and especially hearing, that particular version of La Boheme / Rent might be the sort of life-changing experience any of us would embrace.

 John W. Stiles ( is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.


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