So last week I was at the first filming of RENT (to be integrated with the filming of the final performance on September 7th), and it was a bizarre and wonderful experience. I've, of course, been a RENT-head since its emergence onto the scene in 1996 (I know! I was 5!), so to be there on such a special night to commemorate the show's closing after a long and profound personal relationship with it was something of a full-circle moment, as Oprah would say. The Nederlander looked more like a Hollywood sound stage, with cameras everywhere and crazy, overcaffeinated people with headsets growing out of their faces running rampant. We were told beforehand that there would be some stopping and starting, but nothing could have prepared me for when Mark (played beautifully by Adam Kantor) said "The power blows!", and the band kicked in with the opening and suddenly a voice came over the loudspeaker saying, "Cut! Cut!... We're gonna take it back from the top!" Craziness for anyone who's seen RENT "the real way" as many times as I have (and really... who hasn't?) That happened a few times throughout the night, including the finale of Act One. I hadn't seen "La Vie Boheme" performed that many times consecutively since state drama competitions back in high school. After the second take of the song, I looked behind me and there was Michael Greif standing by the sound booth. So here I sat, in what was essentially a tech run of the show preparing to end its now-legendary run on Brawt-WAY, with Michael Greif - its director from the very beginning - watching with me. It was a "damn! this is some crazy-ass mother-truckin' bullshit" moment, as Oprah would say.
After the show, it was onto an intimate little after-party at Bar41, the lounge next door to the Nederlander. The entire exhausted cast, who'd apparently been filming all day, was there; Will Chase, Tracie Thoms, Eden Espinosa, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Justin Johnston, Gwen Stewart... If you don't know, Gwen Stewart is the original "Seasons of Love" soloist who recently rejoined the show, and to hear her doing that song again (not to age any of you, but) after all these years listening to the original cast recording is really special and quite something. The whole cast is great, in fact. You will not want to miss the big cinecast which hits theatres at the end of September.
As promised, I did harass Eden Espinosa and even took a few cute pics with her (at her request, obviously.) Aside from being incredible in the show, she's absolutely lovely and adorable. We hung out and chatted for a bit, and she was so kind and gracious to me, especially after she learned that I was Jonathan Larson's niece.
Left: Randy Rainbow, Eden Espinosa, Tituss Burgess, Frank DiLella (NY1's "OnStage")