I originally wrote this post at the end of May. The amazing and legendary Broadway musical RENT was scheduled to close June 1 and, due to good ticket sales, was thrown a life line until this weekend. It’s now time for RENT to close after 5,123 performances on Broadway since it opened on April 29, 1996. That makes it the 7th longest running show in Broadway history.
RENT is closing on Broadway on September 7, 2008. This may not seem that big of a deal to many of you, hardly even “blog-worthy.” But for me it is the end of one of the best musicals to ever perform on Broadway. You see, RENT was my first Broadway show. I saw it in November of 1997 and it’s the reason for my love of musical theater. My friend Cathy and I went and saw it at the Majestic Theater in Dallas, Texas. I was working several weekends a month at a church in Texas. I would drive an hour and a half to Tulsa, Oklahoma, from Joplin, Missouri, and then fly to Dallas for the weekend to work at a church where I was the worship leader. I’m not sure why a church would pay to have a college student come so far, but they did. The escape from Bible college and the sense of being a jet-setter were amazing. The church was hoping I would come there full-time after graduation. In reality, the whole experience not only introduced me to my current employer, but it also gave me the flying bug.
Anyway, my point is that this was a transitional time for me. I was finishing up my six years at Ozark Christian College and dealing with all of the gay issues I’ve previously written about. At this point in my journey, I hadn’t come out of the closet. Going to see RENT was like giving me a peek into a world that I didn’t even know existed. A beautiful world of drag queens and queers (I mean that in a good way), a world where it was not only OK to be gay, but fabulously OK. It was a world in which people broke into song and dance for no apparent reason. This was my world. Stunned and, frankly, a little giddy, I sat on the edge of my seat for most of the performance.
I don’t know if Cathy ever knew that I loved it this much because as soon as we left the Majestic I had to get back into “Christian Music Pastor” mode. But, the seed had been planted. And that’s why this musical has been so important to me. It provided me with something I had been longing for–gay life–in all of it’s vibrant color and spectacular diversity. For several years RENT was the only ingredient in my musical theater diet. It was the appetizer, the main course, and the dessert.
I remember the following months in the Bible college dorm as other music students began to discover this musical. You could hear “Seasons of Love” floating out of their rooms. You could also hear the abrupt change in volume when the phrase “mucho masturbation” was supposed to be shouting from “La Vie Boheme.” Some songs really could never be played–at least through speakers. I suppose there is a very strange irony in a bunch of Bible college students drooling over a musical not just filled with sex, but sex with the same sex. And, don’t forget all of the colorful language and the topic of HIV/AIDS that permeates RENT.
But we couldn’t help ourselves. This was an amazing piece of work. I wanted to be Mark, one of the lead roles. And in some ways, I developed his sort of quirky, bohemian sense of style. All in all, I’ve seen RENT three times on stage. That hardly makes me a “RENT-head,” but I don’t think it diminishes my love for the show. When the movie came out, I paid to see it three times. When I bought the DVD and watched the accompanying Jonthan Larson documentary, I cried so hard that I thought I was going to hyperventilate. My love runs deep. So I’ll always hold a very special place in my heart for this musical that means so much to me. We have history.
goodbye, love, goodbye…
Original New York Times review of the show
A Photographer’s journal of RENT from the New York Times
RENT’s website siteforrent.com
Wikipedia’s RENT page
The original cast recording on Amazon.com