Take It or Leave it: the flop that was Rent Live


Photo Credit: Kelly Branco

Rent Live is the least viewed live musical ever. It only had 3.15 million viewers which was a lot less compared to Sound of Music Live's 22 million viewers.

By: Kelly Branco, Reporter and Book Nook Editor

Rent Live was a live television event that premiered on FOX on January 27, 2019. It starred Jordan Fisher (Mark) , Brennin Hunt (Roger) , Vanessa Hudgens (Maureen), Valentina (Angel), Tinashe (Mimi), Kiersy Clemons (Joanne), Brandon Victor Dixon (Collins), and many more. Jonathan Larson wrote Rent which first made its Broadway debut in 1994.

Photo Credit: Photo via Wikipedia under Creative Commons License
The original Broadway cast of Rent launched some stars into their careers like Indina Menzel who played Maureen. All of the original cast members sang “Seasons of Love” with the Rent Live cast members at the end of the musical.


Set in New York in the 1990s, it follows different artists and their careers. It follows the story of Mark and Roger and their friends in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. The audience gets to see how these characters are in their love lives and how they deal with poverty. The characters are Roger (a director/movie maker), Roger (a musician), Mimi (an exotic dancer), Angel (a drag queen), Collins (a teacher), Maureen (a performer), and Joanne (a lawyer). This musical celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, explains the struggles of people in midst of the AIDS epidemic, and the struggles of an artist in New York City. This story tells the audience to live every moment of their lives like it was their last and to measure your life in love.


To put it bluntly, this was a very disappointing performance of Rent. This performance was actually not live, they aired a pre-recorded dress rehearsal. This was because Brennin Hunt (Roger) had broken his foot the day before the performance. The cast apologized after the first commercial break to clarify that FOX aired a pre-recorded version of the show.  In my opinion, they should’ve cast an understudy. This is a national performance that is supposed to be Broadway level. All Broadway shows cast understudies, a performance this big should do the same.

Bad Moments

In addition, ignoring the fact that this wasn’t a live performance there was a studio audience. I understand that this wasn’t in a theater so theater etiquette was out of the question. The audience still should’ve stayed quiet when actors performed. In the number “Today 4 U”, I couldn’t hear ANYTHING. The audience went wild at every actor’s movements.

The performance was mediocre, some numbers were great and others were major flops. As I said before from what I heard of “Today 4 U” sung by Valentina, lots of her notes were flat. Much of the performers were off key at points or just plain flat and it wasn’t pleasant. Some of the actors looked like they were trying too hard and they should’ve just sang the way that they knew how.

Another part that disappointed me (especially for a hardcore Rent fan like me) was that the directors excluded such iconic things from the show as a whole. Other people who aren’t a “Renthead” wouldn’t pick it up as quickly. One piece that really was confusing as to why they took out was Mark’s iconic scarf. In majority Broadway productions (and even in the movie) Mark’s character is always seen with an ugly scarf.  His character doesn’t conform to society and that scarf shows his lack of conformity, many people on Twitter were very disappointed about this choice.

Another thing that was taken out was some of the phrases and words. I understand that this is a national television event and some of the phrases originally said in this show aren’t suitable for television viewers at home. I still think that some of these things add to the overall vibe of Rent. Many of these characters go through really hard things and they talk about taboo things as a result of their creative expression. Certain lyrics were changed and messed around with and I just couldn’t get the usual feeling I get whenever I watch Rent.

Good Moments

Although there were some downsides, I will say that there were some good moments. Three actors that stood out from the rest was Jordan Fisher (Mark), Vanessa Hudgens (Maureen), and Brandon Victor Dixon (Collins). Jordan Fisher perfectly displayed the character of Mark and he really was the one that carried the show. Vanessa’s Maureen blew me away, she was provocative, loud, and crazy as Maureen should be. Brandon Victor Dixon played Collins on Broadway before so he had no trouble in his role. His rendition of “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” made me cry, he had so much emotion.

Final thoughts

Overall, this was the worst production of Rent I have ever seen. I expected more and this left me disappointed. There should be no excuse for not casting an understudy.