Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



This is the famous “AIDS Musical,” and I was looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. I knew it was based on the Puccini opera La bohème, and I had heard a few songs from it on Sirius Broadway radio. None of them had particularly bowled me over. I knew that the author, Jonathan Larson, only 36 years old, keeled over dead right after the final dress rehearsal. (Not from AIDS, he had an “aortic dissection,” which basically means his aorta blew up like an old radiator hose.) I had always kind of wondered if that wasn’t at least partly the explanation for the show’s phenomenal success. I mean, what a tragic story! Rent is the third-longest-running show currently on Broadway, after only Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera.

Maybe it works better on the stage because, rabid musical lover that I am, I just couldn’t get into it. With the exception of a few numbers the music was rather insipid. The dancing was nothing to shout about. The two white guys were ciphers. One of them calls himself a filmmaker, and it is clear he barely knows which end of his 8mm Bolex to point at the action. Take it from me, I made movies with an identical Bolex in the late ‘60s, and you must look through it, you must constantly focus, or all you’ll get is a fuzzy blur. (Of course, when we see the final results of his shooting, at the end of the movie, which is supposed to tug our heartstrings, a lot of it is blurry, but some is sharper than you could get with a 35mm and a Hollywood crew. Honest, the movies I made just farting around were tons better than his.)

Then there is the centerpiece, the “protest” against the landlord, mounted by Maureen, which takes the form of a performance art piece. These things are always stupid, self-indulgent, pretentious, and silly, like the people who create them, and this is no different. The only way this could possibly work would be if it were so bad we could laugh at it, but it’s not even that. It’s just bad.

I don’t know {{La bohème} (I’m more of a Carmen sort of guy), though I know some of the music and the most famous tune, “Musetta’s Waltz,” which is pasted into the final love song the talentless Mark (or was it Roger?) sings to Mimi at the end. But I do know two things about it: It’s about a bunch of Bohemians trying to live and create art in a romantic garret, and Mimi dies in the end. Guess what? In Rent, it turns out she’s just snoozing. Now, Mr. Larson, wherever you are, it takes a certain amount of balls to set yourself up where you invite comparisons between your music and Giacomo Puccini’s (and I’m sorry, dude, but you didn’t deliver), but I don’t even know how to weigh the brass it takes to change the ending! And they say Hollywood fucks up the classics!

I was left with an abiding urge to evict the whole bunch of them, except Idina Menzel, who can sing, is quite a babe, and I’d love to have seen her as the Wicked Witch of the West in Wicked. These are the sort of New Yorkers I’ve always felt don’t deserve a city so wonderful as New York. The poseurs, the agonized creators who never have time to create between trendy happenings, the ones we’re supposed to pity because they shared a needle and now they’re dying. Phooey.