The original Broadway cast in its full, LGBT-riffic glory.
five-hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear,
five-hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,
how do you measure, measure a year?
A 1994 Rock Opera
adaptation of Puccini's La Bohème
, written by Jonathan Larson (who died
before the show was staged), RENT
depicts a group of New York bohemians coping with the modern and postmodern condition. These cast includes:
- Mark Cohen: A film maker. He is Maureen's ex-boyfriend and Roger's roommate.
- Roger Davis: A musician and former drug addict. Prior to the events of the show, he and his girlfriend April were diagnosed with HIV, she committing suicide shortly after.
- Mimi Marquez: An exotic dancer. Like Roger, she has AIDS and a drug problem. She tries to pursue a relationship with him, but their respective pasts get in the way.
- Tom Collins: An HIV-positive philosophy professor and former roommate of Mark and Roger. He falls in love with Angel.
- Angel Dumott Schunard: A mischievous, HIV-positive drummer. She falls in love with Collins. Debate rages over whether Angel is male-to-female transgender or just likes the clothes or gender non-binary, even on this very wiki.
- Maureen Johnson: A free-spirited, bisexual performance artist. She left Mark for Joanne.
- Joanne Jefferson: A Harvard-educated lawyer. She is Maureen's girlfriend, the most strait-laced of all the characters.
- Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III: Mark and Roger's landlord. He used to be their roommate, until he married into money and "sold out". He has something of a Frenemy relationship with the others.
Notable for its revitalization of the musical theatre genre among young people, its ground-breaking portrayal of people with AIDS, and its obsessive fanbase. Also notable for being one of a select number of musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
This play provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Gender: Angel. An unusual case, as it isn't because of androgyny, but because Angel is DMAB, dating a gay man, dresses like a drag queen, acts femininely, and is hinted to prefer the pronoun "she" but apparently doesn't mind masculine pronouns either. Her actual gender is never explicitly stated, so it's entirely up to the actor, director, and perhaps audience.
- Ambiguously Brown: Mimi is said to be Latina, but since one of the first actress to play her was half-black, other portrayals have ranged from fully-black to even non-Latin white.
- Adaptation Distillation: The film streamlines the story and cuts down extraneous bits, allowing for more focus on the main characters and their friendship. For example:
- Instead of breaking up multiple times, Roger/Mimi and Joanne/Maureen only break up once, giving the break-ups much more emotional weight.
- "Contact" is cut, Angel's illness instead is played alongside "Without You", which also shows the depth of Mimi's depression and disease and how she comes to rely more and more on Benny.
- More focus on the group's friendship, as well as the interpersonal relationships between individual characters (Mimi and Angel's friendship, for example, is given more focus).
- Anachronism Stew: The play doesn't have a set time period and premiered on Broadway in 1996, but the movie is set in 1989-90. Benny would have to be a prophet to plan a cyber cafe, since the Internet didn't start becoming mainstream until the mid-90's. The same is true for Angel referencing Thelma & Louise a year before it was released. Mark's film montage at the end contained a mural painted on a wall for deceased Latin music legend Celia Cruz, but the movie was supposed to be set about 10 years before that happened.
- Anything That Moves: Maureen seems to fall prey to this trope, perhaps best personified when she sings: "Ever since puberty / Everybody stares at me / Boys, girls, I can't help it, baby!"
- Audience Participation: "Moo with me!"
- Auto-Tune: Some of Rosario Dawson's cadences.
- Big Applesauce: The show takes place in New York City; specifically in Alphabet City, East Village.
- Big "NO!": Roger in "Finale A".
- Bittersweet Ending: Ends on an optimistic note, but half the characters have HIV/AIDS, so it really only a matter of time till something like this happens again. It's possible now that Benny (and by association, his wife Allison) too are on borrowed time, if we interpret his relationship with Mimi as a sexual one.
- Book Ends: "December 24th, 9 PM, Eastern Standard Time..."
- Breakup Song: "Take Me or Leave Me". In the film, Joanne and Maureen fight during their engagement party and they end up calling off the engagement because of their clashing personalities. However, in the stageplay, it's during a rehearsal for another protest Maureen forced Joanne to direct.
- Cast Full of Gay: Maureen is bisexual; Mark, Roger, Mimi and Benny are straight. Joanne is either gay or bi, and Collin and Angel are queer of some stripe or another, depending on what gender identity Angel actually has.
- Character Development: Roger defrosts, Mark is given some depth in "Halloween" and "Goodbye Love," Maureen gets a little less promiscuous and clingy after "Goodbye Love" (or at least, is willing to try harder to stay faithful to Joanne).
- Corpsing: In the 10th anniversary performance (which featured the original main cast), there were a few instances where the cast members briefly broke character due to some sort of slip up. Both Adam Pascal and Idina Menzel occasionally forgot their lines or lyrics (but laughed it off and continued), and there's a rather hilarious instance during "I'll Cover You" where Jesse L. Martin briefly forgot about an incoming dance move. His reaction? "OH SHIT!!!"
- Cut Song:
- The stage show is nearly entirely sung-through; the movie converts several songs into dialogue scenes or nixes them completely. Notable cuts include the various "Tune-Up" and "Voicemail" sequences, "We're Okay", "Christmas Bells", "Happy New Year" and "Contact". Furthermore, "Halloween" was recorded and filmed, but cut from the theatrical release. Less than 1/3 of "Goodbye Love" made the cut.
- Not to mention all the songs that got cut from the stage version. Some are rather bad ("You'll Get Over It"—a duet between Mark and Maureen about her dating a woman—made him sound like an ignorant lout and her like a callous whore). Others, like "Real Estate" (a trio between Benny, Mark, and Alison where she and Benny try to convince Mark to give up filmmaking and go into the real estate business with Benny instead) were cut for length. Some would keep their melody with their lyrics being almost entirely rewritten, like "Right Brain" would become "One Song Glory".
- The high school edition of RENT cuts Contact on account of the onstage orgy.
- Dark Reprise: The literal reprise of "I'll Cover You" sends 97% of people into either quiet, manageable tears or full-blown hysterics.
- Death by Adaptation: This version of Schaunard (Angel) dies of complications from AIDS, unlike the original Schaunard from La Bohème.
- Defrosting Ice King: Roger warming up to Mimi.
- Did I Mention It's Christmas?: The play spans two Christmases as well as one New Year's Eve, though the holidays are rather incidental to the plot.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Angel. This almost happens to Mimi, too. See below.
- Disney Death: Mimi (except in the Dutch production), who is saved through The Power of Rock... alongside a heavy dose of Fridge Logic/slight Mind Screw. Being brought from the freezing street to a warm room probably helped too.
- Double Meaning Title: It refers to the rent that Mark and Roger can't pay, and to the general feeling of being torn (i.e., "rent") apart. And the third meaning, as suggested by "I'll Cover You" and "What You Own" - nothing is owned in this life, only rented. Including life itself.
- Downer Ending: he Dutch production apparently did not like how Mimi seemed to be brought back to life by the power of love. So in that one she really does die. And after she gets carried off stage by the other characters, Mark stands on stage and sings a cynical rendition of the finale. This was approved by the licensors and everything.
- Drag Queen: Angel.
- Driven to Suicide: The dog, Evita. In the backstory, Roger's girlfriend April.
- Duet Bonding: Mimi and Roger especially.
- The Eleven O'Clock Number: "What You Own."
- Ensemble Cast
- Even the Guys Want Him: In the DVD commentary, Chris Columbus and Anthony Rapp speculate that the true reason some viewers left the theater during the "I'll Cover You" scene is because they had difficulty coping with their own desire for Wilson Jermaine Heredia and his fantastic legs.
- Expy: Every single major character is a personality Expy to a character (or two, in the case of Joanne and Benny) in La Bohème.
- Mark is Marcello
- Roger is Rodolfo
- Mimi is Mimì
- Collins is Colline
- Angel is Schaunard
- Maureen is Musetta
- Joanne is Alcindoro/partially Marcello
- Benny is Benoît and also the Viscount, a character cut from the final version of the opera and thus only alluded to.
- Face-Heel Turn: Apparently Benny.
- Family of Choice: The main characters, most of whom are isolated from their families and other friends. All but Joanne are desperately poor, half of them are HIV-positive or suffer from full blown AIDS and the relationships between the couples are rocky at the best of times, but they support each other and won't let any of the group go through it alone.
- Fanservice: The only reason why, in the film, "Out Tonight" is performed while Mimi is at work instead of at her apartment like in the play. Maureen also suits this, what with her skin-tight near see-through leather catsuit, and flashing her butt.
It's a living.
- Femme Fatale: Maureen.
- Foreshadowing: Possibly Fridge Brilliance here, but Mimi singing the Support Group's mantra in Another Day is possibly an early indication of her being HIV positive.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Mark acts as the narrator. There really is no central character.
- "Friends" Rent Control: Mark and Roger's apartment is huge. No wonder they can barely afford to live there. In the stage version, it's stated that there is no heat or electricity, so they have an illegal wood-burning stove and an extension cord which is stealing power from elsewhere. Benny promised them a rent-free stay, which he then went back on, putting them a year behind.
- Funny Answering Machine:
- Funny Background Event:
- Easy to miss, but in the Hollywood Bowl performance, Mark is seen crossing his legs while Maureen acts out suckling on the cow's udder by sucking her thumb suggestively.
- In the 2005 film performance: When Maureen dons a pair of silver shades to imitate Benny, Benny removes his and hides them in his jacket.
- The Heart: Angel in general. Mimi to Roger. Mark a bit.
- Heel-Face Turn: Benny kinda-sorta reconciles with the other characters. The film almost entirely excises this by removing two key scenes.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Roger and Mark. "What You Own" is their duet and ends with spectacular harmony and a big hug between them. Director Chris Columbus says this is why their duets were removed from the film, as their friendship seemed more naturalistic and believable when they're allowed to just talk to each other.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Mimi, though she's an exotic dancer rather than a prostitute.
- How We Got Here: In the original Broadway version, Mark is on stage with just his camera and sings the beginning part of Halloween: "How did we get here, how the hell? Pan left, /Close on the steeple of the church/How did we get here, how the hell?/Christmas. Christmas Eve, last year" which goes straight into Voicemail #1. However, it was later removed from the show in most Broadway productions.
- Incoming Ham:
- Insistent Terminology: Mimi is an S&M dancer, not a stripper. Making that mistake in front of the wrong fan can be hazardous to your safety.
- Ironic Echo: "I'll cover you." The first time, it's part of an extended metaphor about a pair of lovers providing shelter for each other. The next time, it's about filling in a grave.
- Irrelevant Act Opener: "Seasons Of Love". The show's most iconic tune also has almost nothing to do with the narrative. It's mostly a thematic keynote.
- Ivy League for Everyone
- "I Want" Song: "Santa Fe" and "One Song Glory".
- Jewish and Nerdy: Mark.
- Ladykiller in Love: Arguably Maureen with Joanne, at least by show's end.
- Large Ham: Three words: Over The Moon.
Maureen: 'THE ONLY WAY OUT IS UP!' Elsie whispered to me.
- Last Name Basis: (Tom) Collins.
- Le Film Artistique: Mark's raison d'être.
- Lingerie Scene: Mimi takes off her silver robe for her black bra and panties at the beginning of "Out Tonight" in the film adaptation.
- List Song: "La Vie Boheme".
- The Lost Lenore: April, Roger's dead girlfriend, whose suicide triggers the depression we find him at play's start.
- Love Triangle: Mark, Joanne, and Maureen as well as Roger, Mimi, and Benny. The movie also gives us Mark, Roger, and Mimi subtext.
- Magical Queer: Angel.
- Man Hug: Mark and Roger on several occasions, most notably at the end of "What You Own".
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Mimi to Roger, Maureen to Joanne, and Angel to everyone.
- Married to the Job: Mark. As Roger rants at him: "Mark's has got his work, they say Mark lives for his work, and Mark's in love with his work..." Of course, there's a reason...
- The Masochism Tango: The tango... Maureen.
- Mating Dance: "Contact".
- Meaningful Echo:
- "No Day But Today", "Without You", and "Will I" were all given this treatment in the finale. At the same time.
- Some of "Today 4 U" is reprised far more sexily during "Contact."
- During Finale A, Roger and Mimi echo "Another Day," "Light My Candle," and "I Should Tell You." "I Should Tell You" is also echoed briefly in "Your Eyes" and in "Goodbye Love" in the sung-conversation between Mark and Roger, right before he says "I'll call." More Roger / Mark subtext, anyone?
- During Finale B, Roger meaningfully echoes "Thank God this moment's not the last", a much-needed nod to Another Day.
- Meaningful Funeral:
- Meaningful Name:
- Angel, of course.
- Also, many characters' names are modernizations of their counterparts from La Boheme.
- Mister Muffykins: Evita, Benny's wife's dog (at least the yappy part).
- Mind Screw: "Contact": It's kind of a stage-wide orgy that is also a metaphor for death. It never fails to confuse the hell out of everyone the first time around.
- Moral Dissonance: Angel killing a puppy, then singing about it.
- The Movie: FEATURING: Most of the original Broadway cast members!
- The producers recognized that, for the most part, the original cast had aged well enough in 10 years that they could all take their original roles. Fredi Walker, the original Joanne, thought she was too old for her role, but made sure they didn't Race Lift her part. Daphne Rubin-Vega, the original Mimi, was pregnant at the time of production.
- The Musical: Rent is the late parts of The Eighties and the early parts of The Nineties condensed and put to an awesome soundtrack.
- New Year Has Come: "Seasons of Love".
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The tabloid news show that Mark briefly works at does a piece on "vampire welfare queens who are compulsive bowlers."
- No Bisexuals: Maureen is constantly referred to as a lesbian, though she is actually bisexual and visibly Mark's ex.
- Original Cast Precedent: Mark and Mimi are stated to be respectively Jewish and Hispanic, but the races of the other characters are pretty much determined by those of the original cast members despite race being incidental. Thus, Joanne, Collins, and Benny are always black, Angel always Hispanic, and Maureen and Roger always white, at least in professional American productions where a variety of people are available.
- Only Sane Man:
- Some see Benny as this.
- Mark sees himself as this.
- The Power of Rock: How they save Mimi.
- Pair the Spares: An inter-textual example. In La Bohème, Colline and Schaunard are the only characters without a romance, so here their equivalent characters are made a couple.
- Positive Discrimination: It might be a coincidence, but the four canonically minority characters (Benny, Collins, Joanne, and Mimi) are the only ones with stable jobs. Also, the only healthy and unconditionally loving relationship is between two gay men.
- Precision F-Strike: Also the only two F-bombs left in The Movie.
Joanne: This is weird.
Mark: So weird...
Joanne: Very weird...
Mark: Fucking weird!
- And then later in the same song...
Joanne: She cheated!
Mark: She cheated.
Joanne: Maureen cheated!
Mark: Fucking cheated!
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Inverted — Jonathan Larson wrote this in memorial to his friends who had died of AIDS, but it's almost as if he wrote his own memorial. See the book "Without You" by Anthony Rapp for details.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mark gets a pretty good one from a homeless lady who feels he's exploiting her plight to make his movie.
- "Goodbye Love" is basically this for everyone, with Mimi and Roger fighting, Joanne and Maureen fighting, Roger and Mark fighting, and Collins telling all of them off for not being able to hold it off just for today.
- Recycled In Space: Puccini's La Boheme IN MODERN DAY NEW YORK!
- Rock Opera
- Rummage Sale Reject: The entire cast.
- Running Gag:
- This one:
- The constant puns with Mimi's name and the word "me", seen at least in "Light My Candle", "La Vie Boheme A" and "Goodbye Love".
- Say My Name: In "Your Eyes": "MIMIIIII!"
- Self-Parody: Dating back to the New York Theatre Workshop in 1994, "Right Brain" was what is now "One Song Glory", and many fans either feel like vomiting or laughing when they hear it, for very obvious reasons.
- Setting Update
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: In the song "Happy New Year", Benny sings "Does your boyfriend know who your last boyfriend was?" and Roger responds "I'm not her boyfriend!".
- Shout-Out: To La Bohème, of course: Angel's last is name Schaunard, the name of the character she was modeled after. Collins is Collin), Mark is Marcello, Mimi (just guess), etc. They all have jobs roughly equivalent to their operatic counterparts, Mark being a filmmaker while Marcello was a painter, etc.
- The use of "Musetta's Waltz" (the song Roger keeps playing on his guitar), referenced in the line from "La Vie Boheme A": "And Roger will attempt to write a bittersweet, evocative song ... (Roger plays) ... that doesn't remind us of Musetta's Waltz."
- The lines "Every single day, I walk down the street, I hear people say 'Baby's so sweet'" in "Take Me or Leave Me" (a fairly direct, if modernized, translation of the first lines of "Quando m'en vo", or Musetta's Waltz).
- And of course, the akita, Evita.
- Part of "Christmas Bells," where various vendors shout out their wares to passerby, echoes a similar scenario in the Act II opening of La Bohème.
- Mark burning his screenplays for heat and Mimi's game with the candle are taken straight from the opera, and the ending is a virtual recreation, with the ending slightly tweaked.
- Sidekick Song: "Today 4 U" for Angel, "Santa Fe" for Collins, "Over the Moon" for Maureen.
- Spared By Adaptation: Mimi survives at the end (except in the Dutch production), unlike the original Mimi from La Bohème.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Maureen's flimsy justification for being unable to stop cheating.
- Somewhere, a Mammalogist Is Crying: Evita the little yappy dog is specifically mentioned to be an akita, for rhyming reasons. Akitas are a large breed, reaching 100 lbs or more. She might have just been a puppy.
- Stepford Smiler: Mark. While he's always attempting to be Roger's happy, supportive best friend, the song "Halloween" marks him (pun intended) as someone contemplative, mournful, and terrified of the reality of his situation. ''And when I capture it on film, will it mean that it's the end and I'm alone?''
- Survivor Guilt: Mark knows he's probably going to outlive all of his friends, which is a serious downer.
- Symbolism: Mark and Roger invoke this during the song "Rent" while burning their old material to keep warm after the heater goes out.
Mark: The musician lights up the night with passionate fire.
Roger: The narrative crackles and pops with incendiary wit.
- True Companions: This is the overall relationship of the main characters.
- Unintentional Period Piece: The movie, at least, starts on Christmas Eve 1989, but the show has always been synonymous with The Nineties. Virtual Reality as an evil takeover plot, AIDS spreading like wildfire, Benny's ignorance about the risks of HIV, etc.
- Unreliable Narrator: Mark.
- Uptight Loves Wild: Joanne and Maureen.
- Villain Song: "You'll See, Boys".
- Wham Line: A few, including:
- "AZT Break."
- After "Contact": "...it's over."
- From "Goodbye Love", "I'm the one of us to survive!"
- From "Happy New Year":
"But does your boyfriend know who your last boyfriend was?"
- What the Hell, Hero?: A homeless woman delivers a scathing one to Mark, rightly pointing out that he's only using her plight to make a name for himself and kill some of his guilt, since filming her like an animal on the Discovery Channel doesn't solve any of her problems. This actually causes him to rethink his movie plans, refocusing it on his friends facing HIV.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Angel.