Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Goodbye Old Friend . . . .

After more than 12 years of bringing passion, energy, and youth back to Broadway, Boheimia is dead. After it's June 1 evening performance RENT will close. It will close as the 7th longest running show in Broadway history. It was truly it's generation's HAIR. (And a much better show, at that.)

Along the way, it won the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize. It launched the career's of Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel.

I discovered RENT in the fall of 1996. I didn't actually see it for the first time until the next spring, but by then I had memorized every single word of the score. In the years since, I have seen it on stage 7 times. I wish it was 107. For those of you who's only frame of reference to the show is the film. . . . I'm sorry for you.

This show has such an emotional power. It just can't really be described. But I'll try.

In about 1999 or so, I saw it in Austin. It was part of the Broadway Across America series. I had really good seats, orchestra, pretty close to front center. I was sitting directly behind two well dressed, older (than me) couple's. I would guess mid 50's or so. It was apparent from their conversation that the two men hadn't seen each other since the last show in the series. As the wives happily chatted about this and that, one of the men asked the other (in a good old boy drawl), "What's this one about"? His friend answered, "Hell I heard it's about queers and AIDS and blacks and whites kissing each other". Good Old Boy replied, "If it is, I'm walking out of here".


I thought to myself, "Well, this should be interesting".

As the show commenced and I sat there mouthing the words, rapt in my own bliss, a funny thing happened. The two in front of me became very obviously engrossed in the show. When Angel died, I noticed Good Old Boy make a little swipe at his eyes, real quick like, as if he just "had something in it". When the show was over, there he was, on his feet standing and applauding as long and as loud as everyone else.

Bless you Jonathan Larson, and goodbye old friend.

La Vie Boheme!


Anne said...

Sadness! I never got to see it on stage, only the (*ahem*) film version.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Some of the touring shows can be pretty good.

Check it out if you get a chance.

The link in the post goes to a site that will show tour dates.

You must!!


Anne said...

Sadly, none of the currently posted tour locations is even remotely near me. Apparently they're not doing the west coast on this particular tour.

Batocchio said...

I never saw it, but have heard some of the music. A great anecdote, though.

brandann said...

i have seen it on stage only twice, and i feel ripped off that i can't see it more. i saw it in toronto back when it was first on broadway, and again in detroit in about 2000. i knew every word...we played it at our annual "pops" concert my senior year of high school...

i enjoyed the film but it can't hold a candle (hahaha) to the on stage version. sad that jonathan larson never got to see his vision on stage. it stands as my favorite broadway show of all time. sad to see it go!

Brave Sir Robin said...

but it can't hold a candle

Nice, . . .nice.

Bitty said...

All I saw was the film, which I liked well enough. I watched it because I had a student who couldn't stop talking about it. Maybe someday I'll see it on tour -- but apparently not this tour.

About the Good Ol' Boys: I've noticed that art can break down some of those defenses (even if they get 'em right back up again really quickly). In one of my classes, I teach "Brokeback Mountain" (the story, although with some film clips). When we come in that day, there is lots of "I ain't no queer...ha, ha, ha" from the students, especially the male students. But when we finally settle down to talk about it, the talk becomes intelligent and even compassionate. They just first have to make darn sure that EVERYONE KNOWS that -- ugh -- they "ain't no queer."