As I sat in my seat staring at one of the most iconic sets in Broadway's history, I heard my heart beating in my ears. I couldn’t believe that I was lucky enough to witness and experience the “RENT” 20th Anniversary Tour in Boston. “RENT” is the show for lovers, fighters, dreamers, and anyone in between.
This musical follows the lives of a group of broke young adults attempting to prosper in Alphabet City, New York in the 1990s. During that time, New York City experienced extreme poverty and an HIV/ AIDS epidemic that affected the lives of many—characters in “RENT” included. Each character in “RENT” struggles with demons including drugs, poverty, illness, and the quest for true artistry.
While some of these issues have been mainly left in the past, many are still pressing in the real world outside of the musical. “RENT” serves as an eternal reminder that we should never forget the AIDS/HIV epidemic that affected millions, and the constant issues of homelessness and lack of housing in America that continue to affect millions. Each actor in this anniversary tour portrays the raw emotion felt by the character. My heart leaped into my throat during emotional and raw songs like “Goodbye Love” and “I’ll Cover You.” These songs provoke memories of epic loves and losses that anyone can relate to, on any scale.
Tough times will always find people. The song “RENT” is an angry, “stick-to-the-man” song about how the characters are unable to pay rent. It is a commentary on the way that society can often trample those who need the most help. The musical portrays homelessness and addiction in realistic and powerful ways through the struggles of the characters. Homelessness in Alphabet City, New York City and the world is a problem that has yet to be improved. The wealth disparity in America is one that has yet to be narrowed. “RENT” addresses topics that were and still are incredibly pertinent and pressing.
“RENT” not only calls on life’s hard moments but life’s beautiful moments. The ensemble passionately bursts into song and dance with smiles on their faces as they shimmy and shake to “La Vie Boheme,” which will make you want to get up and dance in the aisles, tap your foot, or throw your hands in the air. You will laugh out loud and cheer at the hilarious lyrics to this song. The love and strength of friendship and chosen family will make you want to hold your own even closer. Watching the cast dance on tables will remind you that life is here to be celebrated. These characters only have one life: a life that could be long, or incredibly short. Each of them will teach you that we only have this one life we are given to live. “La Vie Boheme” is an affirmation and a celebration of life that will bring a smile to your face and tears to your eyes.
The grown man singing along to “Seasons of Love” in the aisle is a reminder that this is not just a musical for the young. “RENT” is for everyone that lives on this Earth every day and “Seasons of Love” is arguably its most famous song—for good reason. This is a song that makes you want to laugh, cry, smile, and scream for everyone who has come into and left your life. You will not be able to resist singing along to the powerful notes belted by the ensemble.
“RENT” is a celebration of the good, bad, and ugly of life. But witnessing these characters’ joys, failures, and triumphs makes you realize that life is worth living anyway. “RENT” is the appraisal of life that we all need right now. You will feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. Get up and go see the 20th Anniversary Tour of “RENT” at the Boch Schubert Theatre in Boston now until November 10th.
By Saffiyah Coker, Staff Writer, November 2019
Photo: Boston Herald, The Company of the RENT 20th Anniversary Tour Photo by Amy Boyle 2019