Monday, June 2, 2008

A Fancy Prayer...

The following is a transcription of my thoughts from what was set to be the final performance of RENT but what is now just the final Broadway performance I will see of RENT:

When the theatre goes dark tonight, and the tree comes down, and the posters get pulled from the walls, we aren’t just saying good-bye to a piece of pop culture or music history: we are saying good-bye to a young artist’s legacy. There is no doubt in my mind that if Jonathan were here tonight, he would have another brilliant play in development, if not already on Broadway. Sadly, though, that can never be the case, and I only hope he can be proud of the success RENT has had, even though he could not be here to revel in it.

When RENT first opened, I was twelve years old, and my parents wouldn’t let me see it. They thought I was too young for the content; somehow they had convinced themselves that I had never been exposed to sex or drugs or disease before, and they wanted to shield me from it— in effect to shield me from life. That summer, though, I was able to hear the words from the soundtrack album, and I was moved in a way I had never been before. Roger and Mimi’s combativeness in "Another Day" perfectly depicted what I was battling within myself on a daily basis. Could I adopt the “live in the moment” attitude I so admired from a true Bohemian or was I destined to be a constant worrier, desperate to set myself up now for a future that may never even come?

I greatly admired the carefree joy of “La Vie Boheme,” yelling along at the top of my lungs with the names of those incomparable creatives and yearning to be one of them. When Anthony Rapp sang "Is anyone in the mainstream?" I couldn't stop the tears from welling up in the corners of my eyes; that single line summed up exactly how I wanted to be. During years when I could not feel more different, here were some other young people just living their lives and happy to do so in the way they wanted to: they didn't think they were the outsiders, and they were genuinely confused by the idea of “the masses.”

What You Own” made me want to rebel against my upper middle class mother’s way of buying my love; I was both Mark and Roger in the middle of “Good-Bye Love;” and I painfully understood “One Song Glory” and “Santa Fe” and that deep desire to be somewhere great and to do something great, just to leave your mark on this world as it chews you up but before it spits you back out.

Normally I would never encourage anyone to run out and purchase Chris Columbus’ bastardization of this beautiful story, but I am going to do so now; I will even provide you with a direct way to do so. If you can get past all of the glossiness and bright colors and fake sets of the Hollywood lens, which seems to have tried its damnedest to make a very gritty, very real, sad story family-friendly, and if you can forget about all of the eloquent words Columbus omitted or changed, there is an extremely touching documentary on the second disc about Jonathan—his life, his work, his passion, his art. That is the film that should have been shown nationwide; that is how you should remember this story and these characters if you’ve never had a chance to see it play out on a stage.

So I don’t hope that the final night closes with the full rendition of “Seasons Of Love,” but rather “Louder Than Words” from "tick Tick BOOM" instead. I think those are the words and the message Jonathan would want us to be left with at this time of change. If nothing else, there is something poetic in how he ended up doing a lot of what he sung in that number. He is the voice of a generation, and through the touring company, the Original Broadway Cast recordings, and any subsequent revivals, he will be the voice of many future generations, as well.

Thank you, Jonathan Larson!

1 comment:

James Rabbitte said...

I still can't believe Chris Columbus' version. If you had asked me before the film was released, I would have said there was no way you could turn something as transcendental as RENT into a boring, schmaltzy film about thirty-year-olds who just need to get a damn job. Lo and behold, Columbus managed to make nearly the entire original cast look bored. As art it was lacking, as a period piece it was detestable, and as a legacy to Jon Larson it was damn near unforgivable.

The music, though, will shine through forever. Like the best works, it will be a part of my life until I shuffle off, constantly reminding me of what I can be and what I always dreamed I could be. In that, RENT will always succeed.