This weekend my college roommate, Aydrea, was in town, and through an L.A. connection got tickets (very good tickets) to see Rent for herself and me and Nathan. I love this show. It is maybe my favorite thing in the whole wide world. It was the first musical I ever liked enough to purchase it, and sing it in my car over, and over, and over again. It is possibly the only movie I have ever had to see on opening night (and subsequently the only DVD I've ever bought the day it came out). I even considered auditioning for it (for about 5 seconds) when they had open auditions right after I moved to NYC. Needless to say, I was crazy excited to see it again. And it surpassed even my greatest expectations.
I had seen Rent three times before this, twice when it toured through Austin and once since having come to New York, and I was really overjoyed each time. But this time was something different. Aydrea knows the family of Jonathan Larson, who wrote Rent. Mr. Larson died from a heart ailment one day before the show was to open Off-Broadway, but his family has remained close to the show and to its cast each time, as it is obvious this show has so much of him in it. Since the beginning of August, two of the original leads, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, have been reprising their roles, which is why it was such a tremendous deal for us to get tickets at this point. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. It is so clear from watching them that their love for this work runs deeper than the beauty of the music and words. They knew the man who created it, watched it unfold, mourned him through their work. It was amazing to see something I know backward and forward become something new, evolve before me with greater meaning to I had ever known. It was an unbelievable, unforgettable event.
And as if that was not enough, due to Aydrea's friendship with his family, we were able meet the stage manager of the show who proceeded to introduce us to the entire cast. They were all so kind and appeared to be so humbled by this show. Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal stopped and said hello and spoke to us for a second but had to get away quickly to escape the throngs of screaming teenage girls who know them from the movie. But as the rest of the cast filed out each of them stopped and spoke to us, about the experience of doing the show, about the joys of their character, about how it's such an awesome experience to be doing this show at this time in its history. Tamyra Gray (who was robbed on Season 1 of American Idol) played Mimi and was truly astounding. A young man named Justin Johnston played Angel like I had never seen him played, and it turned out that I had seen him play Roger in the touring company when I lived in Austin. And then after everyone had left, the stage manager, John Vivian, took us on a tour of the stage. It will sound silly to anyone who has never been this in love with a play, or movie, or musical, but we got to stand on the marks the actors stand on when they sing Seasons of Love. We walked up Mimi's staircase, and sat on the platform where they sing Life Support. Truly unforgettable.