Viva La Vie Boheme! This Is Your RENT Liveblog!

Hi Hello! Welcome to RENT: The Liveblog! We’re here today because we’re gay, and you’re gay, and if you are gay and love musicals even the teensiest, tiny bit – chances are strong that for a significant period of your life, you loved RENT! If you’re anything like us, your live-bloggers, you loved RENT with that tender part of your heart that to this day still beats raw despite every thorn in life that has tried to callous it.

For the uninitiated, RENT is a rock opera tribute to arts, activism, and living for today. It’s written by Jonathan Larson (rest in peace) and loosely based on Puccini’s opera La Bohéme. The musical tells the story of a group of lovers and friends, people of color and queer folks, living in Manhattan’s Alphabet City while struggling under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

Who’s your team tonight? Glad you asked!

(Al)aina: My favorite RENT song is “Contact” and my earliest RENT memory is seeing it in the movie theatre and my friend telling me that she would have nightmares that the ‘batty man’ would come to get her 🙃. Writing about RENT was the first thing I wrote for this very site as a staff writer!

KaeLyn: My favorite song is “Out Tonight.” Once I got in a bad car accident with my gay best friend in high school while we were listening to “One Song Glory” from the original Broadway soundtrack. The car accident was unrelated to the song, but I’ll always connect the two. For me, RENT is always going to be a stage show first and a film second. Like, it’s still very strange to me that Joanne’s phone call in the opening number and other small changes are cut from the movie version. It’ll be interesting to see what version of the score the LIVE version follows!

Valerie: I LOVE ALL THE SONGS DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE. Top five IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER: “La Vie Boheme,” “Take Me or Leave Me,” “Light My Candle,” “Out Tonight” and “Goodbye Love.” La Vie Boheme was quite the vocabulary lesson when I was 11 or 12 (once, while listening to the song, I asked my mom what a ‘dildo’ was). I joined my local theatre group when I was 12 and the older kids (aka the coolest kids) worked as ushers at the theatre playing RENT in Boston, so they knew the entire La Vie Boheme performance by heart. It was THE COOLEST thing. Oh and here’s another fun fact: One of the times I went to see RENT was in New York when Joey Fatone was in it, and Justin Timberlake was two rows behind me at that performance. (It’s important you know that we bought the tickets before I knew Fatone would be in it, and my 15-year-old self was feeling snobby about it, but he ended up doing a fine job as Mark.) I’ll never not be upset that the movie soundtrack decided to take out the “help me look” in “Light My Candle.” It was on par with the Newsies musical removing Patrick’s mother from “Carrying the Banner.” I was once an extra in a movie with Adam Pascale! I also met Anthony Rapp during his book tour and saw RENT when Adam and Anthony came back to it briefly HAVE I MENTIONED I LOVE THIS MUSICAL!!

Carmen: Well I thought I was going to be the person here who loved RENT the most, but then along came Valerie, hahaha. No seriously – I first saw RENT when I was 12-years-old while visiting family in New York for Thanksgiving. I have not been the same since. To call this musical core to my very soul, part of my DNA, would by an understatement.

We’re not alone in our love! Tony-Award Winning bisexual actress Sara Ramirez (our collective imaginary girlfriend) had this to say about the show’s influence on her life and her excitement about tonight’s production:

And here’s queer actress Kiersey Clemons (tonight’s Joanne!) talking about being given the opportunity to play an iconic role so close to her own self:

Tracie Thoms, famous for her portrayal of Joanne in RENT: The Movie (and in pretty much every production since for the last 10 years), has already given her best wishes to Kiersey. We here at Autostraddle, forever on #TeamQueerBlackGirl, definitely echo the sentiment. For our long-time RENTheads, there’s been confirmation that the Original Broadway Cast will be reuniting for tonight’s production!

Got your snacks ready? Good. Live blogging starts at 8:00 p.m. EST!


8:05 p.m.

Carmen: If nothing else, I’m very excited about a non-binary Latinx Angel and a queer black Joanne.
Al(aina): Indeed. Okay, but that viewer discretion is advised?
Carmen: These… aren’t the words to this song.
Al(aina): OMG they said “crap.”
KaeLyn: Wait now they’re adding words too??

8:10 p.m. 

Al(aina): This theatre in the round is cute.
Carmen: I’m also a fan of the theatre in the round effect. Well selected for the production.
KaeLyn: Yeah I’m loving the theater in the round too. And the amphitheater like staging. It worked well for Jesus Christ superstar live last year too.
Carmen: HERE COMES BRANDON DIXON!! Who wast the world’s best Judas in that production of Jesus Christ Superstar. And then he did the Wakanda Salute as his curtain call! All time great.

8:15 p.m. 

Al(aina): I’m in my actor feelings and like “Why is this audience screaming between each scene? This is a PLAY!”
KaeLyn: I actually like the rock concert feel. Also I’d be screaming my fucking head off if i was there, let’s be real.”
Carmen: Word. ME TOO.

8:20 p.m. 

Al(aina): I saw the RENT movie first.
KaeLyn: I did the pre-movie equivalent, Al, which is just listening to the soundtrack on repeat forever. I didn’t actually see it on stage until I was 22. I’d read the liner notes along with the CD. AGING MYSELF SO MUCH.
Carmen: NOT AT ALL!! Those liner notes were my Bible!
Valerie: Same!
KaeLyn: It was a double CD and I had to buy another copy because I wore it out.

8:25 p.m. 

Valerie: It’s weird to think that when I first learned this show I was like “omg cool grown ups!!” and now I’m like “omg bbs.”
KaeLyn: Yes so true. I want to like help them get their lives together. Donate to all their GoFundMe’s.

Al(aina): The WHOLE THING is prerecorded????
Carmen: OH THIS IS BULLSHIT. Sorry. But it is.
Valerie: This must suck for the rest of the cast SO MUCH
KaeLyn: Oh ok. Well that is definitely cheating.
Carmen: This is why you get fucking understudies.
Valerie: THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE STAND-BYS. Like I get not wanting to hire a whole cast of understudies, but you really only need two swings for a show with a cast this small!
Carmen: That’s what I was thinking! One understudy could cover Mark, Roger, Benny, and Collins with little worry.

8:30 p.m. 

Carmen: TODAY FOR YOU TOMORROW FOR MEEEEEEEE. The scream I just let out!
Al(aina): The zebra tightsssssssssss.
Carmen: IT’S THE BEATTLES IN MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW. ROLLING STONES.
Valerie: 🔥
Carmen: GET ON THE TABLE ANGEL THE TIME IS NOWWWWWW.
Valerie: Okay so even though I probably would be screaming I wish the audience wasn’t screaming louder than Angel was singing.
Carmen: x2
Carmen: Okay, I accept this adaption but she should’ve gotton on the damn table.
Valerie: Those boooots
Carmen: Those tigggggghts
Valerie: lolol that coat
KaeLyn: I think they’re killing it!

8:40 p.m.

KaeLyn: Waffle just said, “Do you think they are going to say ‘dildo’?” and I really don’t know.
Carmen: Rent taught me and Valerie about dildos!
Valerie: Do you think the people in charge of changing the words to Glee songs was involved in this? Some of the changes seem just as random/silly.
Carmen: Hahaha! “The Rocky Horror Glee Show.” :shudder:
Valerie: “Glease” was the biggest one
Al(aina): Mmm Joanne is still giving me Top™️ vibes.

8:45 p.m.

Carmen: I’m so nervous right now. “Out Tonight” is a DO NOT FUCK UP for me.
Valerie: So far so 🔥.
Carmen: My wife Rosario Dawson messing it up in the movie is why I never accepted her Mimi.

8:50 p.m.

8:55 p.m. 

Valerie: Oh shit I FELT that moment of silence.
KaeLyn: It was a little too real and really a true way to honor the horror of AIDS in the 80’s into the early 90’s.
Carmen: That moment of silence was the right choice. I respect the decision to just let that mourning breathe.

9:00 p.m. 

Valerie: I found out what’s happening live right now for the people who had tickets.

Carmen: He really broke that ankle.
KaeLyn: Yeah damn.

9:05 p.m. 

KaeLyn: This is like a perfect Angel-Collins pairing.
Carmen: I agree Kaelyn!!! My second favorite combination (after The Originals) in 20 years of my favorite couple. That is NOT EASY. Their love is pure and right in their eyes.
Valerie: This Collins is SO good.
KaeLyn: I think maybe Valentina isn’t a dancer, though, which is a little hard to make that role hold a candle to others who’ve played it. But they’re still bringing it. The chemistry feels so right.
Valerie: Their heart is in it and that goes a long way.
KaeLyn: Yes I believe the performance.
Carmen: I love them in combination. Valentina isn’t going down as my favorite Angel alone, but they are doing a great job.
KaeLyn: If anything it’s more real to who Angel would be if she was real and not a produced-version of a trans woman street musician.
Al(aina): I LOVE THEM. Or maybe just this song, I don’t know I’m emotional.
KaeLyn: I’m so happy in my heart right now.

9:13 p.m.

Valerie: LOOK AT THAT 90s BRICK OF A CELL PHONE. Bless.
KaeLyn: The Calvin Klein model. Such a specific 90s lesbian aesthetic.

9:15 p.m.

Valerie: THERE’S OUR GIRL.
Carmen: WELL PEOPLE THE SHOW HAS STARTED MAUREEN IS HERE.

Valerie: Every single time I listen to this soundtrack I’m surprised that Maureen doesn’t show up until the end of Act I because of how important she was to me.
KaeLyn: Yes Valerie! My first (flawed stereotypical but also badass) bi role model!

9:25 p.m.

Carmen: I would be so terrified to do this number in front of Idina Menzel (who is in the audience).
Valerie: I would be terrified to breathe in front of Idina Menzel tbh.

9:30 p.m.

Carmen: OH GOD LA VIE BOHEME.
Al(aina): I want full adult bop NO KIDS BOP!
Valerie: FULL ADULT BOP!

9:35 p.m.

Carmen: FOR BEING AN US FOR ONCE, INSTEAD OF A THEEMMMMMMMMM. I love this musical! I love it with my whole heart!. Thank you for being my people ❤️
Carmen: Ahhhhhh mucho masturbation!
Valerie: LATEX IS NOT DILDOS
Al(aina): I’m glad they said masturbation!
Carmen: But you’re right Valerie, it’s not the same. I’m pleased they didn’t cut masturbation, so I’ll give a pass.
Al(aina): THEY DIDN’T SAY SODOMY. THEY DIDNT SAY IT.
Carmen: NOOOO LOSING SODOMY IS A LOSS
Al(aina): Am I high? Is it too early?
Valerie: I DON’T GIVE IT A PASS I MISS THE DILDOS
Al(aina): Okay I’m high.
Valerie: I was so mad about dildos, I missed the kiss. ffs!
Carmen: Two lesbian make outs! TWO! That makes my heart full. Let’s go gays!
Valerie: lolol I saw THAT kiss.
Carmen: SODOMY MADE THE CUT. IT MADE THE CUT.
Al(aina): Bless.
Carmen: Though now I agree a little with Valerie about the missing dildos. The one line that gets cut is the one that’s largely understood to be about female pleasure? That’s suspect.
Al(aina): (Also no butts.)
Valerie: We riot at dawn. BUTTS BUTTS BUTTS.
KaeLyn: I’m Team Dildo. But honestly it was way better than I expected? I was preparing for the worst
Valerie: :chants: NO DILDO NO BUTTS, WHERE THE HELL ARE ALL THE ‘FUCKS’

9:40 p.m. 

Carmen: Damn Kiersey’s Joanne is the sexiest Joanne to EVER Joanne.
KaeLyn: I mean I’ve never wanted to be topped by Joanne so that’s new.

9:45 p.m.

Valerie: I will not lie to you, I am bouncing on my bed. VIVA. LA VIE. BOHEME.
Carmen: I just screamed myself hoarse. THEY DID THAT
KaeLyn: How is this on FOX?!
Carmen: I do not know, but I am so thankful.

10:05 p.m. 

Carmen: “Take Me or Leave Me!” The unofficial broadway gay girl anthem! Ask me how many times I sang this song in high school! ASK ME I SAY.

Valerie: Vanessa Hudgens’s abs are already making me gayer. I have a 100% success rate of making out with whoever I sing this song with at karaoke.
Carmen: This might be my first time watching a live production of RENT without being in the closet. Y’all, it’s a lot.
Valerie: You know what, I think same, Carmen.
KaeLyn: Bless them that they didn’t do the movie wedding thing. I was so mad about that.
Carmen: YES! I always hated that movie choice. (Sorry, Al.)
Valerie:  I agree. Also, these are the two strongest singers so far too so I’M EXCITED.
Carmen: “Don’t you want your girl hot?” YES I DOOO VANESSA. YES I DO. I’m gayer than I was ten minutes ago.
KaeLyn: Waffle used to sing this in the car AT THE TOO OF OUR LUNGS driving back from the gay bar (which was an hour away from our school). When we were a hot mess and in our early 20’s.
Al(aina): We stan a margins and discipline lesbian.
Carmen: BISH YES WE DO.
Valerie: THIS GIRL SATISFIES. INDEED.
Carmen: My literal favorite version of this song that has ever existed. WOW. (No my second favorite, my favorite is now Waffle singing this song to KaeLyn at the gay bar).
Carmen: WELL GUESS WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS 20x THIS WEEK
Al(aina): This is e r o t i c!
Valerie: HELP HELP HELP
Al(aina): They’re fighting on A B E D
Valerie: I’M TOO GAY TO FUNCTION
Carmen: GAY GIRL DOWWWWWN

KaeLyn: Sorry I wasn’t participating. I just blacked out.

10:15 p.m.

Valerie: Here we gaaay! I mean go!!
Al(aina): ok they kept the original 80s music i’m emotional
Carmen: I AM FREAKING OUT. We are doing this! Please, show our sex! YES! Our sex is on Primetime TV AND ON A SUNDAY NIGHT

10:17 p.m.

Al(aina): This is stunning
Carmen: This is… I’m speechless. This Angel breakdown is the best I’ve ever seen it. The slow fall? I’m gasping for air! So beautiful. Well, that’s it. (no more writing while I cry now. Be back later.)
Valerie: 😭
Carmen: 😭😭
KaeLyn: Oh that fucked me up. I take back everything i said about Valentina not executing choreography. That was beautiful. 😭

10:20 p.m.

Carmen: I love being gay, I love being in this community. Even in our pain. I love that watching this makes me feel closer to every gay person with a beating heart right now.
KaeLyn: I think Carmen you said this earlier, but this is so weird experiencing this now vs when I was in the closet, when I actually know what queer community feels like vs when I felt so alone and confused and wanted a family like this.
Valerie: I spent so much time listening to this musical alone in my bedroom, it’s truly an honor to be watching it as a community now.
Al(aina): Holy shit. I’m overwhelmed, emotional, verklempt.

10:30 p.m.

Carmen: “Mimi’s gotten thin” always gets me.
Valerie: 😭
Valerie: “You don’t want to watch me die,” too.
Carmen: 😭 X2

10:40 p.m.

Al(aina): NO. He did not just do that.
Carmen: OMG CROWD SURFING!! Oh favorite Mark, you’re really out here trying new things.
Al(aina): I don’t love the way they’re breaking the fourth wall in this! It’s inconsistent!
KaeLyn: I just keep thinking how much I love this Mark. Like so much. It makes you think: What could have been if Mark hadn’t always been every mediocre white guy?
Carmen: 🙌🏾

10:50 p.m.

Carmen: Okay, this is the part they are doing live, right? The big final number/ last scenes?
Valerie: It says LIVE on my TV!
Carmen: Ta-Da!
Valerie: Good sitting, Broken Roger! Y’all, I am dying.

Carmen: There’s a cast on his foot! It’s so broken!
KaeLyn: I feel so sad for him. He frosted his tips for this.
Carmen: I’m sorry I can’t hear y’all over Maureen and Joanne holding each other in the background!
Al(aina): 🗣 MIMIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

10:57 p.m.

Carmen: That’s it! This solidifies it. My favorite musical once again lives up to its memory. Vanessa and Idina hugged y’all. They hugged! OMG WAIT THEY’RE ALL IN PAIRS. WAIT… DAPHNEEEE! IS THAT DAPHNEE RUBIN VEGA!?!??
Valerie: I
AM
NOT
OKAY
Carmen: NEVER GOING TO BE OK. Perfect ending is perfect.
Valerie: My whole heart is soaring with this ending.
KaeLyn: Literally everyone loves this. How can you now love this?
Carmen: How can you not???

KaeLyn: I forgot about the missing dildo. I don’t even care about the dildo anymore.

Carmen is Autostraddle's Deputy Editor and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 223 articles for us.

62 Comments

  1. Copy/paste from my Facebook post:

    There was a time when RENT was my world. I was 15-16, and I was obsessed. A true Renthead, I saw the show 27.5 times. I was anxious and lonely, and I was realizing my sexuality. I needed the show. I needed to see two women kiss onstage. I needed the community of the Rentheads, both at the Nederlander Theatre and online. Rent was not always a good thing for me, though. I became obsessed, to the point where it was all I cared about. My grades slipped, my anxiety worsened, and all I cared about was Rent. I was a fangirl. I went to the stage door after every performance, and I got to know the actors. I wanted to be friends with them. It became unhealthy. Rent, and the people in it, were actually the tipping point of my anxiety. The almost-last time I went to NYC before becoming agoraphobic, it was to recite a super embarrassing monologue at the Rent Student day, onstage at the Nederlander. Had I gone through with it, it would have ruined me. But when I woke up that morning, I couldn’t get to the train station. I must have known, unconsciously, that the whole thing had gotten out of hand. Then I stopped going outside.

    RENT sent my world into a downward spiral. It wasn’t the show’s fault, obviously, but when people say I love Rent, I correct them. I loved Rent. I then went through an anti-Rent phase. I’ve come to terms with all this, and I can acknowledge how much the show meant to me, but it really needs to stay a memory.
    I’m going to watch RENT: Live tonight, in the comfort of my apartment. I’m curious to see my reaction, all these years later.

    Oh, and one last thing. I said I saw it 27.5 times. That half a time was actually the last time I saw it. It was sometime in spring of 2008. I had been going outside and going to school for over a year, but I couldn’t get back to NYC. Then, one day, I decided I was ready. My dad drove my mom and me into the city one evening, and we saw Rent. I only made it through the first act. It was too much. We left during intermission.

    I keep in touch with very few people from Rent. A few of the cast members are Facebook friends, and we’ll occasionally run into each other or send a hello text. I’ve ended up working with a few cast members, most who have forgotten me (probably for the better).

    Okay, that’s all.

  2. Anyone else a little peeved by the fact that they changed “…you need somewhere to do it. It’s what we use to dream about, think twice before you pooh-pooh it.” to “perfect it” and “reject it”… WTF needed to be censored about that??

  3. tag urself: maureen’s entrance edition
    -audience cheering before the helmet is even off
    -the weird camera work that makes the motorcycle appear out of nowhere
    -the intense zoom on v.hudge’s ankle
    -the hair flip
    -the smirk

  4. IDK how I just now realized at 10:30pm Eastern that you all are doing this but I’m excited to read it all later! I’ve been busy conversing with all my old RENThead friends on Facebook, and probably annoying everyone else but I don’t care it’s my wall I do what I want.

  5. My Rent experience is completely dominated by the fact that I saw the movie first and watched it with someone who’d actually lived in the squat its set in as a child. So I spent it a. sobbing and b. listening to her complain about how it differed from the stage show and also the bits that were inaccurate about squat life.

    Also fun fact – Rosario Dawson actually fucking lived there! She got cast because the director spotted her while he was scoping the neighbourhood and before she was an actress she used to babysit my friend!

  6. There are people on Twitter talking about how they are falling in love with Kiersey and seem to have never heard of her, so here is your reminder to:

    watch Hearts Beat Loud!!!!!!!!

    It’s an amazing movie with Kiersey playing gay and singing, as she should in all roles from now until the end of time!

    Thank you for your time.

  7. I know there’s a lot of things about RENT that are not great (like stealing a lot of the story from Sarah Schulman!) but I still love it so much and it has such a huge place in my heart. I saw it twice on Broadway (in 2001 and 2004) and once when the touring cast came through Detroit (in 1998) and I LOVE THIS SHOW so much. I was obsessed with Take Me Or Leave me nearly a decade before I realized I too was gay. Vanessa Hudgens was INCREDIBLE and so was Kiersey and every review that does not declare them a highlight is wrong. Also I think FOX should release their recording of the live “spirited table read” so I can experience it all over again.

  8. OMG, so many feeeelings!! I had really hoped to get my gaggle together and watch this in person, but y’all completely made up for it. I sang Seasons of Love in 9th grade chorus and always adored Take Me or Leave Me! I also really like the avant-garde cow jumping over the moon monologue! I cried through much of the second act.

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