Friday, June 27, 2008

I should tell you ...

First of all, a confession - I love musicals and I love theater. And I like Soft-rock.
So when I had a chance of watching something on Broadway this weekend, I had no problem of choice especially when I knew that Rent is closing its first run on September this year. I had it on my wishlist for long time.
They call it to be phenomenon, a cult musical and what not! Well I liked the music, loved few songs, especially 'Seasons of Love'. I read about the story line, interesting and complicated. I read about the background of the show and some history of the show, interesting! I read people compare it with 'Hair' - an epoch making rock opera. And then the second longest running production in Broadway. All these were enough to build my interest on Rent.
Then I got to see the movie. The had made it into a movie with mostly the original Broadway cast. Its a good movie. I liked some more songs. For a musical, the context of a song is important. Most of the songs of a musical doesn't really make a lot sense from its lyric without the context. Same is true for Rent. With the context and the background of the characters the songs go up to a different level. I realized that while watching the movie. I liked it a lot. And I realized the stageplay is going to be intense.
So I was there at Nederlander Theater on a Sunday afternoon. The Nederlander Theater is an old building on a narrow lane. As I went in, I discovered a small but crowded audience in front of a shabby dull looking stage, perfect to depict the Alphabet City, the premise of the show. A junk yard, a part of a derelict building, two balconies ... thats all the stage is. There is no seperate place for the orchestra. They sit inside the derelict building and play on. Its a quite small stage in three levels.
Then the show starts and it engulfs me. The main part of a live performance is energy of the performers. And from the point Roger enters the stage the energy flows to the audience and radiants vibrantly. Its a two hour long thrilling experience where the actors take you along their journey.
So the plot is something like this. In the Alphabet City in East New York, the Avant Garde of NYC lives a group of bohemian. Mark and Roger are roommates and out of money. On the Christmas eve they are threatened for the rent of their apartment by Benny, one of their ex roommate who now has moved away from them due to his wealthy father-in-law. Mark is a journalist, photographer, screenwriter. Roger is an HIV positive strugglung songwirter whos girlfriend commited suicide recently. Mark has recently been dumped by Maureen, a bi-sexual for Joanne, a lesbian. Mark and Roger is visited by Collins another exroommate of theirs. Collins is a philosophy professor and homosexual. Collins is befriended by cross-dresser Angel. There is one more character, Mimi, a young girl who has crush on Roger. The story revolves around them and their love, hate, sexulaity, security, creativity, ... and time flies. The next Christmas when they try take a stock they realize what life is,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?How about love? Measure in love
Its based on Puccini's famous opera 'La Boheme'. Its composer and write Johnathn Larson died prematuraly just couple of days before its first public show. Its a rock opera that deals with issues like drugs, homosexulaity, love and AIDS, like 'Hair' did in seventies.
Now the production. A small stage but very very well utilized. Its in three levels and shifting focus from one level to another gives another dimension of space to the entire show. In fact a well synchronized show in every respect. And its a lot lot better than the movie. Its a different experience. Getting engulfed into the atmosphere and enjoy. A high energy level of actors pulls through every single scenes. I didn't like few songs in the movie ('One Song Glory', for example) but believe me, I couldn't find any such song in the stageplay! The songs are actually integral part of the play itself. They don't have an identity of themselves outside the stageplay. But when on stage it rocks!
Everyone was perfect at their act. Wonderful singing and dancing. Be it Angels awe-inspiring dances on Today for You, or Mimi's acrobatics in 'Out Tonight', it was an unforgettable experience. Songs like 'Light My Candle', 'Santa Fe', or, 'I'll Cover You' are so full of life that you sure are going to come out of the theater with a new vigor. It was an ewxperience beyond my expectations.
I know I could not write very coherent and unbiased thoughts for this show thats because I'm still in a trance of Rent. And I should tell you, watch it before it gets out of the stage.

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