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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dies Irae, Dies Illa

Dearly beloved... I'm feeling a little sad in my heart today. At this very moment, RENT prepares to play its final performance on Broadway - like - ever. As I sit here at the end of an era, wearing my blue spandex leggings and leopard halter (I just came from church) I can't help but reminisce... I'll never forget my first introduction to the show: I was living in a rundown old loft in the East Village, battling a mean coke addiction; Jonathan Larson, who was my roommate at the time, asked me if I... Oh no, wait... It was actually the CD... I was a freshman in high school in Broward County, Florida and my mom bought me the CD.

Like most, I became quickly obsessed. It's strange to remember the time when that's all it was to me... a CD... a collection of exciting vocals and new music in a plastic box. My friends and I learned every song, verbatim. We didn't understand half of the references in them, of course, but we knew that they were viable options for entries in district theatre competition. (They also gave us an excuse to sing lyrics like "faggots, lezzies, dykes, crossdressers, too" in front of our parents, lawfully protected by the rationale that "it's just showtunes, you guys!" We were awesome.) Then, a fateful last-minute visit to the box office of the Nederlander on a family trip to NYC finally brought RENT out of the jewel case and forever altered me, artistically and creatively. Years later, after moving to New York, I caught a performance of it and was moved in a new way; now having reached the age of these characters I'd grown up with, their struggles and message were suddenly sharper and more relevant than they'd ever been. Of course, over the years, I've gone back a few times to visit the show, and it's been there for me like an old friend - an old homeless tranny rocker friend on a heroin kick who hasn't updated her wardrobe since '96 - but always there. And now I'm gonna miss it.

On Friday night, I was fortunate to be invited backstage of the Nederlander Theatre to chat with the final cast of the show for an upcoming piece I'm working on. As someone who'd never been before, to be back there in the midst of such a historic time as this was just... heavy... that's the word that comes to mind... It was dense with emotions and memories and excitement and all the old spirits of the show. It was a little thrilling; walking through the famous alleyway behind the theatre; passing the big wooden plaque engraved with Jonathan Larson's name hanging above the callboard; climbing the stairs to those little dressing rooms... And I must tell you... that of all the monumental impact RENT has had on me over the years, and of all the profound recollections I have of the show, none will ever be as eternally ingrained on my memory as Will Chase (Roger) coming out of the shower, wrapped in a tiny bath towel to meet me. I'm getting a little emotional in my spandex just talking about it. I digress...

Friday night was a blast. I hung around the dressing room with Adam Kantor (Mark), Eden Espinosa (Maureen), Will Chase (Roger/my boyfriend), Michael McElroy (Collins), Gwen Stewart (Original "Seasons of Love" Soloist), and Tracie Thoms (Joanne) while they prepared for the show. They were all such loves, and clearly so honored and humbled to be a part of this final company. It was quite a wonderful experience... one I won't soon forget...

(What was I just talking about?) Aaanyway, my RENT piece will be out soon. Look for it on a blahg near you.

Goodbye, Love.

1 comment:

Benjamin said...

thats really special Randy. Im glad your talents have brought you such a moving and magical experience as that one. Ive been singing La Vie Boheme for two weeks straight. Thanks for introducing the show to me way back when, though late in the game as I was. I cant wait to read your rent piece.

come to florida for New Years - we'll sing seasons love together.