Two weeks ago news broke that Neil Patrick Harris, who will be directing a very special production of RENT at the Hollywood Bowl, cast Vanessa Hudgens in the lead female role: young ingenue-stripper Mimi Marquez. Naturally eyebrows were raised for a few reasons, my own included, and many RENTheads across the country held their breath waiting for the announcement of the casting of Roger. And no one has been able to exhale yet, as no other news has been forthcoming.
Now, I was willing to give Harris the benefit of the doubt with Hudgens because he truly knows the material (he starred as Mark on Broadway). But of course when this weekend presented me with the opportunity to steal a few minutes with Harris himself, I had to ask what he was thinking-- both with Hudgens but also with those he may have already cast but not yet been ready to announce. Luckily for all of us, Harris is an intelligent, artistic guy who truly understands the message and meaning behind this unique piece of art in and of itself. And he cares enough to uphold its integrity.
Said Harris: "You know, it's important to me to honor the material and not really to make it an environment of how many celebrities can maybe sing the songs. I think that would be a detriment to the piece. There will be a lot of faces that you might not recognize if you didn't already know the show; there'll be some people that will be surprisingly refreshing, but paramount to it all will be having a good auditory experience."