La Vie bohème in Modern Cinema

        The longtime running Broadway musical, Rent, became a film musical in 2005 when director Chris Columbus offered audiences a very adept and powerful adaptation of Jonathan Larson's rock opera. The Broadway production opened in New York on April 26, 1996, at the Nederlander Theater, and continues to run today, making it the seventh longest running Broadway show. Larson's Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning musical was inspired by Puccini's 1896 opera, La Bohème, where his enchanting world was replaced by the crudeness and noise of the rough neighborhood, Alphabet City, in New York, and the threat of AIDS (in La Bohème the disease was tuberculosis), all set in the backdrop of the 1980's.

        The story centers on a group of friends, who are struggling to survive as modern day Bohemians. They struggle with housing, the ever-present threat of drug addiction and AIDS, love, loss and the purpose of life. It follows their lives through the course of a year, beginning on a cold Christmas Eve, and ends exactly one year later in the same place. Throughout the play characters develop close relationships and are torn apart and brought back together by the death of Angel, a street drummer and transvestite who indirectly held the group together. The theme is a wonderful one, exonerating on the purpose of life, which becomes the movies version's tagline, "No day but today."

        The film production of Rent is a beautifully composed and developed version of the play. Taye Diggs, Wilson Heredia, Jesse Martin, Inida Menzel, Adam Paschall and Anthony Rapp were in the original performance of the Broadway production and returned for the movie, which makes the film even more real. The on-location song and dance sequences were brilliantly performed and were choreographed by Keith Young. The plot is the same as the Broadway production, and both the film and Broadway production take many specifics from Puccini's opera and incorporate them into its plot line. The guitar riff played by Roger throughout the show is based on "Musetta's Waltz" from La Bohème. The dedication of the producer to stay close to the Broadway production, and Larson's careful adaptation of Puccini's work, both celebrate the originality and uniqueness of an exquisite opera and portray the purpose of life in modern musical theater, leaving me with hope and anticipation of a new era of quality musical film.

Marilyn Kennon

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