Sunday evening, fans of “Rent,” a rock musical produced by Jonathan Larson, waited anxiously in front of the Will Call counter, glancing down at their lottery tickets in hopes of hearing their number called. “Rent,” which ran Oct. 7 – 9 at Broward Center, does not offer tickets for sale in the first two rows and instead hosts a random lottery, where winners pay just $25 to see the award-winning show up close and personal.
I did not enter the front-row lottery, but I did have the opportunity to see “Rent” from about ten rows back. I typically prefer plays and felt that I would enjoy the story of “Rent” more than the music itself, but was surprised to find the opposite to be true.
“Rent,” set amidst the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s, follows the lives of a group of HIVpositive New Yorkers struggling with their careers, love lives and health issues. Larson, renowned for writing about such contentious topics, passed away in 1996 the night his show opened, shocking cast members and audiences nationwide.
The show’s underlying message, that in life we merely “rent” people and time, is clear and ever-present. However, I did not find the particular moving and felt that it resonated more with older audience members. AIDS, now a manageable chronic disease, has largely lost its fear factor among those who did not live through the 1990s epidemic.
Although the plot did not likely captivate the entire audience, the music of “Rent” is different and more contemporary than other shows. From the slow and emotional tune of “Seasons of Love” to the powerful, mouth-dropping “Take Me or Leave Me,” the music loosely mirrored the pop genre and deviated from the stereotypical definition of a showtune. “Rent,” a completely musical production, effectively managed to explain the story through highly expressive and emotive song lyrics, quite the feat for such a complex plotline.
Certainly, I would recommend that both acting aficionados and theater amateurs see “Rent” and experience all the show has to offer. While the premise of “Rent” might be out of touch for some audience members, its stellar tracks drew listeners into the show from the very first act and left them wanting to rent their seats for more than just one night.