La Bohème/Rent

I don’t imagine many of you will see this until the weekend, but I figured that, since I didn’t have class today, I’d finish the research early.  I didn’t find a whole lot of material for La Bohème, but Rent has spawned a seemingly endless series of parodies.  There are plenty more parodies to be found on YouTube, but I had to stop at some point to keep things reasonable.

 

Here is what I found for La Bohème:

 

• Baz Luhrmann created a modernized version of the opera (set in 1957) which first played in Australia in 1990.  A recording of a performance was released on DVD, which is available at NYU.  Here is an article about a more recent revival of Luhrmann’s adaptation:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2305609.stm

Here is a trailer for a Broadway production:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwPxd0Oi_U4

 

• There was another modernized version that debuted in 2009, with act 2 set (and performed) in a London pub.  Here are a couple of reviews:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/dec/03/operaupclose-puccini-pub

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/reviews/la-bohegraveme-cock-tavern-theatre-kilburn-londonbrjansons–royal-concertgebouw-orchestra-barbican-london-1845572.html

 

La Bohème was adapted as a short story by V. S. Pritchett, and published along with the libretto in Italian and English.  This book is available at NYPL and at several of the CUNY libraries.

 

• Bobby Worth adapted “Musetta’s Waltz” into the pop song “Don’t You Know?”, which was sung by Della Reese in 1959.  Here is the recording:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJSnKWpb_hs

 

• The latter-day Simpsons episode The Homer of Seville has Homer starring as Rodolfo in La Bohème.  I’m not sure if there’s a non-sketchy way to watch this for free, but there is some info at the Simpsons Wiki:

http://simpsonswiki.com/wiki/The_Homer_of_Seville

 

• A performance of La Bohème also features prominently in the 1987 romantic comedy Moonstruck.  The scene is on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sqhn2mFi9rg

 

• McSweeney’s Internet Tendency has a parody of La Bohème called “The One-Minute, Non-Musical, La Bohème for One or More Actors”:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-one-minute-non-musical-la-boheme-for-one-or-more-actors

 

There have been numerous productions of Rent, several of which use adapted versions of the musical.  Wikipedia has an extensive page for Rent (as you might expect), so if you’d like to read about the different productions over the years, it’s probably a good place to start.  Below I’ve listed some assorted things I’ve found that might be particularly interesting

 

• There is a full video of a 2010 stage production on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiX5fAVHfSA

 

• There is a cut-down and bowdlerized version of the play called Rent: School Edition, released in 2007 and intended for performance in high schools.  There is some info about it at its Web site:

http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000305

Here is an NPR piece about it:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97826099

The script does not appear to be available in libraries.

 

• Also in 2007, a production called Rent Remixed debuted in London, claiming to update the musical for the mid-2000s.  Here are a couple of reviews:

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2007/oct/16/theatre4

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/113661-New-London-Production-of-Rent-to-Close-in-February-2008

Here is a video of the cast performing “Seasons of Love” on a TV fundraiser:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzI5tSKWE5c

 

• In 2011, Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music put on simultaneous productions of La Bohème and Rent.  It seems like the intent is in part to make La Bohème more accessible by means of Rent.  Here is the Web site:

http://www.bw.edu/news/rent-laboheme/

Here is a time-lapse of the transition between the two sets:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJJHZU8bg8E

If you like in the similar videos list, you can find a bunch of videos from the Rent performance.

 

• In addition to the Original Broadway Cast Recording on 2 CDs, there is a CD called The Best Of Rent: Highlights From The Original Cast Album, which condenses the soundtrack to one CD.  The motion picture soundtrack is similarly available in two different versions.  I can’t recall seeing a “best of” for any other musical.  It was probably created mainly because Rent has a relatively large number of songs compared to other recent Broadway musicals (which usually fit on one CD), but it also might say something about the way people relate the music—unlike most of Sondheim’s work, the songs from Rent seem to function pretty well outside of their immediate narrative context.

 

Team America: World Police (2004) includes a parody of Rent called “Lease”, which ends with a song called “Everyone Has AIDS”.  Here is a clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yC7HwPh6Es

 

• The 1996 musical Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back! includes parodies of several songs from Rent.  There are video versions of a couple of the songs.  “Rant”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M-2xddTBW4

“Ouch There Tight”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpHkCNrHlUc

These are not just videos of the stage performance, but I’m not sure whether they’re part of a longer film or what.  I can’t find any DVDs or video tapes, although the “Forbidden Broadway” troupe has released a number of CDs.

 

• The song “Seasons of Love” was performed on Glee earlier this year.  Here is a video of this performance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngxbwLYC1bw

Someone put together a mashup of the Glee performance with the one from the Rent movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74PW8UGAURA

 

• I also found a mashup of “Seasons of Love” with Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “Crazy in Love”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0PGhjSkbx8

 

• Here is a video of a guy lip-synching to “Seasons of Love” while taking on the personae of all of the characters from the musical:

http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/4628900858/rent-seasons-of-love-parody-from-j-son-j-dot-son

 

• Someone put some lyrics from Rent into Xtranormal, a now-defunct Web site that created 3D-animated videos using text-to-speech conversion.  (You may remember this Web site from a series of videos advising people not to go to grad school.)  A few of the Rent videos are on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiL5C1dVvlM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aymZGHx52SQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVZu-WX7-XQ

 

• And to tie things into next week: of the works we’ve looked at so far, Rent is one of the ones that has inspired the most fanfiction.  You can find over 6,000 pieces here:

https://www.fanfiction.net/play/RENT/

 

If it’s of any help to anyone, the Mid-Manhattan Library has both the 2005 film version of Rent and the 2008 “Filmed Live on Broadway” DVD.

6 thoughts on “La Bohème/Rent

  1. Thanks Jeff (again) for such a comprehensive list of references. FYI: DVDs of the Baz Luhlrman Australian production of “La Boheme,” reset in the 1950s, and the 2005 Chris Columbus movie of “Rent” are now in our personal reserve in the GC library.

    See you on Tues. Have a happy Tgiving.

  2. I am feeling conflicted about the very existence of “Rent: School Edition.” (I’m conflicted about the existence of school editions at all, but particularly for this play.) I guess I’d prefer the sanitized version to not producing at all, and I’d prefer that they sanitize language rather than content, but it seems so antithetical to the values of the production (and I wonder what Larson would think. I’m guessing his reaction might be stronger than Rapp’s). I’d be interested to see what’s in the “special educational component” and how it’s structured.

    One interesting element of the adaptation of “Boheme” to “Rent” is the use of “Musetta’s Waltz” as a motif, played by Roger. (Even more interesting, from an adaptation perspective, is the moment when Mark calls Roger out for playing the song, which he names.) “La Boheme” thus exists in the “Rent” universe. Are there other adaptations of which we can say that? Does Roger know that, like Rodolfo, he’s in love with a woman named Mimi?

  3. Hilarie, I agree with you about the school editions. I was kind of horrified when my own community theatre did “Into the Woods, Jr.” and it’s only the first act…defeats the whole theme of the show. However, with regards to Rent, I think part of our offense is due to the almost mythical auteurship status that Larsen has gained in the years since his death. Rent is treated as a fixed work, even though the book is weak at times. I don’t know if anyone saw the New World Stages production of Rent maybe two years ago. They had a good opportunity to tweak and fix, and yet, they didn’t. Same with the film, people threw fits over some of the stuff that was cut (“Contact,” anyone?).

    Regarding your second question, I can think of two other adaptations that are slightly aware of its predecessors – both Austen related. The novel version of Bridget Jones notes that the lead character loves the BBC 1996 miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. They cut that bit in the movie, though, because it was potentially confusing with Colin Firth cast as Mark Darcy. Similar shtick in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries – Lizzie has a fondness for BBC period dramas starring Colin Firth.

    Going back to Rent, the opening ceremony of big fan convention called Leaky Con featured a parody of “La Vie Boheme.” Anthony Rapp was a guest of honor. The original song is a celebration of non-mainstream NYC culture, and this transforms into a celebration of fan culture (which I love.) You can see it at the YouTube backslash “watch?v=BlA8j2kKKAI”…I’m avoiding putting the direct link in so my comment doesn’t get held up again.

  4. Hilarie, I agree with you about the school editions. I was kind of horrified when my own community theatre did “Into the Woods, Jr.” and it’s only the first act…defeats the whole theme of the show. However, with regards to Rent, I think part of our offense is due to the almost mythical auteurship status that Larsen has gained in the years since his death. Rent is treated as a fixed work, even though the book is weak at times. I don’t know if anyone saw the New World Stages production of Rent maybe two years ago. They had a good opportunity to tweak and fix, and yet, they didn’t. Same with the film, people threw fits over some of the stuff that was cut (“Contact,” anyone?).

    Regarding your second question, I can think of two other adaptations that are slightly aware of its predecessors – both Austen related. The novel version of Bridget Jones notes that the lead character loves the BBC 1996 miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. They cut that bit in the movie, though, because it was potentially confusing with Colin Firth cast as Mark Darcy. Similar shtick in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries – Lizzie has a fondness for BBC period dramas starring Colin Firth.

    Going back to Rent, the opening ceremony of big fan convention called Leaky Con featured a parody of “La Vie Boheme.” Anthony Rapp was a guest of honor. The original song is a celebration of non-mainstream NYC culture, and this transforms into a celebration of fan culture (which I love.) You can see it at the YouTube backslash “watch?v=BlA8j2kKKAI”…I’m avoiding putting the direct link in so my comment doesn’t get held up again.

  5. Hmmm… on the subject of the “School Edition,” its a wonder that we’ve never talked about the show Glee before in this class. I’ve never seen it, but my understanding is that each week they put on a glee-club show of music covers (and that from the commercials the show’s reality-specifics of the limitations of a real high school glee club are thrown out the window). I wonder if they sanitize their versions as well, to keep with the pretense of its setting in a high school (and to keep that younger audience). The song “Seasons of Love” was performed this year to open a tribute show to one of the actors that died, of a drug overdose. This idea of ‘sanitation’ and young audiences has a strange intersection here–on the one hand, ‘Seasons of Love’ is arguably the most recognizable song from Rent (and the most often taken out of context?), and doesn’t necessarily have any of the overtones of complex themes like the rest of the musical. However, given how prevalent the reporting on the actor’s mode of death was, I wonder if it was a way to acknowledge or draw on the Rent story–particularly since, in the show, they made a point to not give the specifics of the character’s death, allowing for further elision between the character and the actor playing him.

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