Going to a show on Broadway — not just to a Broadway show — is something special. Being around Times Square, the hustle and bustle, never knowing whether you're going to see the next huge star, and sitting in an old theater watching people perform is an experience to be treasured. Having attended both Broadway shows and Broadway-style shows mounted elsewhere are two wholly different experiences. The music may be just as wonderful, the book just as good, and the actors equally stellar, but the experience is still simply not quite the same (the same thing can be said of seeing a show in the West End). Watching the Blu-ray release Rent – Filmed Live on Broadway leaves one with the exact same sort of feeling.
The books, music, and lyrics, all by Jonathan Larson, are wonderful, and the cast all have wonderful voices. A certain sense of joy at being a part of the show is definitely imparted by the actors, but there is still something unquestionably missing.
The story of Rent is that of a year in the life of a group of friends living the Bohemian life in New York City. More than a couple of them are suffering with the AIDS virus; they all have various personal struggles with love and friendship; and, as the name of the musical indicates, they struggle to pay the rent. It's a powerful story, even if it does seem dated despite having been written less than 20 years ago. Its message of hope and love is still a strong one, and will remain a strong one in years to come, but one imagines that future productions will end up being done as period pieces.
The sound is truly all-encompassing in this Blu-ray, with music coming from all the speakers when appropriate, and applause seeming to come more from the rear. Additionally, it looks spectacular (it was filmed specifically with this release in mind). The colors are all incredibly crisp and it's easy to make out lots of detail on clothing and the sets. In terms of color, sound, and picture quality, one might actually think they were there on Broadway.