'Rent: Live' Was Mostly Pre-Taped While a Studio Audience Watched a Very Different Version
By Zach Seemayer
Rent: Live aired Sunday night, only it was a little less live than fans were hoping for.
If you tuned into the show, unaware that one of the production's main stars had severely injured his foot during a live rehearsal the night before the musical was set to air on Fox, you might not have realized anything was amiss.
Jordan Fisher and Brennin Hunt opened the musical as Mark and Roger, performing the first numbers as planned, with all the quick cuts and theater-meets-TV quirks that set Fox's series of musical productions apart from NBC's series of more traditional productions.
The rest of the cast joined in for the musical's major numbers, and as it came to a close, the episode faded to black and then came back up on the set, only now the entire cast -- mostly out of costume -- stood together on stage with a message for those watching at home.
"Last night, during our performance in front of a live audience, one of our cast members sustained an injury," explained Vanessa Hudgens, who played Maureen. "A visit to the hospital confirmed that Brennin Hunt, our Roger, has broken his foot, and will be unable to perform tonight."
"But, Rent has always been about community, resiliency, and bouncing back," added Valentina, who starred as Angel. "So the show must go on."
"Most of what you'll see tonight will come from last night's performance," Fisher chimed in. "But we've all rallied together to re-work the final act so that all of us, including Brennin -- and the original Broadway cast of Rent -- can perform it for you live!"
So, Rent: Live turned out to really only be partially live -- yet, on Sunday evening, they still brought in a studio audience and staged the production with Hunt in a wheelchair, and many of the numbers reworked entirely with far less choreography -- at least for the scenes involving Hunt.
Then, almost none of that was aired at all.
A few of the people who attended the bizarre (and seemingly unnecessary) production on Sunday shared an inside look at what they got to watch while viewers saw an entirely different performance.
So, as the cast performed a version of the musical that no one would ever get to see outside of the people in the theater, they also played footage from the dress rehearsal (which is what viewers at home saw) on large TVs near the stage, so those watching could see what it was supposed to look like if Hunt wasn't wheelchair bound.
Secondly, how did Fox not have a contingency plan for an accident? Every production -- from the biggest Broadway musical to the smallest community theater play -- uses understudies for this exact situation.
#RentLive Cast: Will we have understudies? You know. Just in case.
The only part of the performance that was live -- as denoted by a little "Live" tag Fox added to the top of the screen for the only segment in which the title of the show wasn't a lie -- were the final moments of the production in which the original Broadway cast came on stage and performed "Seasons Of Love."
Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, Taye Diggs, Adam Pascal and Jesse L. Martin sang along with their Rent: Live counterparts, and for the number, Hunt spent most of the song sitting on a table with his foot in a medical brace.
However, despite any ill will some fans might have had about the way the situation was handled, it seemed seeing the reunion of the original cast may have cleared a lot of the negativity from their minds.
That just happened. On live television. The RENT OBC-ers, SO MANY OF THEM, bringing the love full circle. Unbelievable. Measure in love indeed. Adam Pascal in the back sitting on the table w Brennin Hunt. I mean I can’t. Legacy. #RENTLive
Idina Menzel stood right next to her ex-husband Taye Diggs looking fine as hell and then belted her face off like her vocal cords were still in 1996 and THAT is the energy I'm going to carry into 2019. #RentLive