Last night on the reunion show for Ru Paul's Drag Race, second runner-up JuJuBee publicly announced her desire to become a star of stage and screen alike. Specifically she said she'd love to play Angel on Broadway in RENT. Well, I hate to break it to her that RENT is no longer on Broadway (because reminding myself of it makes me oh so sad!)...but it is coming to the Hollywood Bowl!
Now, personally, I feel that Raven from the same season is who I could more easily picture as Angel just based on looks, but admittedly I don't know much about either of their potential as singers. Her declaration, nonetheless, got me to think about who else I'd like to see director Neil Patrick Harris cast alongside somewhat questionable ingenue Vanessa Hudgens (who, admittedly, if she manages to hit all the notes will solidify herself as the next true talent to emerge from the Disney machine since Shia LeBeouf!). Harris has already made some selections with which he cannot yet go public, so until he does, allow me my fun as I create my RENT Hollywood dream cast!!
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mark. Ferguson has stage presence. He stole the show when I saw him perform in "Putnam County's Spelling Bee" a few years ago out here in Los Angeles. He's a theater kid, which means he has the chops, but he also understands the material and can connect in a way some of these "younger" up-and-comers will inevitably miss. There's also something about him that just gets the somewhat nervous, somewhat neurotic energy that encompasses Mark, and I love that about him!
Jared Leto as Roger. He has been in a band for years, becoming something of a staple of his own among fangirls in Los Angeles. He also has the "bad boy" image/ego down, and as long as he stays "toned down"-- i.e. no neon mohawk-- he looks the part on his own. He can rock, and he can actually play the guitar, which helps immensely when it comes to credibility. He may be a little harder than Roger usually is, but that adds an intensity and a seriousness that many performances-- especially after seeing Chris Columbus' watered down adaptation!-- seem to lack for today's Disneyified audiences. Roger is perhaps the most real character in the play, and that needs to be illuminated on stage in order to resonate fully with the audience.
Michaela Watkins as Maureen. Let's face it, it's tough to follow in Idina Menzel's shoes. It's also tough to follow in Eden Espinosa's shoes. And both those women crafted their own versions of this character to be completely iconic and incomparable. I've only seen-- err, heard-- Watkins sing in small doses in sketches during her short time on Saturday Night Live, but I know she has the big personality and comic timing to pull this role off. Maureen is intense, but she has to be enjoyable, too, and that Watkins can definitely do.
Amber Riley as Joanne. We all know her story. The girl tried out for American Idol and was rejected but hit pay dirt with glee. But on that show, her immense talent often gets buried behind that of Lea Michele, who is supposed to be the ingenue (much the way Mimi Marquez is the ingenue in RENT). So many others who got kicked off Idol ended up on Broadway (Frenchie Davis even co-starred in RENT already), but really I just want to see Riley get up on that table as a strong, independent woman and get in Maureen's face during "Take Me or Leave Me." Yes, she's young, but I think she'd bring a fresh energy to the role. And I think she would add a level of great humor to the tango, too!
Mehcad Brooks as Benny. I don't know if he can sing at all. Let's assume he can because the kid is nice to look at, let's face it, and he has the swagger that can make Benny believable but also somewhat likable. The problem with so many's portrayals of Benny (since Taye Diggs) has been that it's hard to imagine the swarmy, "putting himself first" guy was once best friends with sweet, sensitive artists Roger and Mark. But Brooks has layers as an actor and could pull that off through subtleties. Plus, did I mention that he's not bad to look at!?!
Chris Colfer as Angel. He hit the high note in "Defying Gravity." That should be enough said. If he can do that, he can easily jump up on a table in three-inch heels. And I welcome the chance to see it!
Elijah Kelley as Tom Collins. He proved he has the chops in Adam Shankman's remake of Hairspray three years ago, but he hasn't had much of a chance to show off his ability since. He has a natural charisma that would lend itself well to happy-go-lucky Collins. The boy can sing, dance, and has a killer smile. What more could you ask for to try to do Jesse L. Martin proud!