“No other path / no other way / no day but today.”
Classic words. Inspirational words. The theme of the late Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece, “Rent,” which, after 10 years and counting on the Broadway stage, is moving to the big screen with an adaptation opening Nov. 23.
It is the first of two Broadway musicals set to hit the big screen before the end of the year, with “The Producers” being released in late December.
“Rent” is the story of several Bohemians living together in New York City and trying to survive under conditions of disease and poverty. It is quite a twisted tale that cannot be easily explained, but, hey, let’s try.
Without giving away too much of the story, it is about Mark Cohen (Anthony Rapp) and Roger Davis (Adam Pascal), who are best friends and roommates in the city. Roger is HIV positive, having contracted the disease from his last girlfriend, who killed herself after receiving the diagnosis.
Mark, as the narrator, is the filmmaker of the story, trying to document their lives on camera. Roger is the songwriter and has retreated into himself because of fear over his diagnosis as well as the loss of his girlfriend. This changes, however, when he meets Mimi Marquez (Rosario Dawson), who is also HIV positive and a drug-addicted S&M dancer.
The story also features Maureen (Idina Menzel), Mark’s former flame; Joanne (Tracie Thoms), Maureen’s new lover and a lawyer; Tom Collins (Jesse L. Martin), a computer genius who is also HIV positive; Angel (Wilson Heredia), Collins’ drag queen street musician lover who is HIV positive as well; and Benjamin Coffin III (Taye Diggs), the landlord of the apartment building the characters live in, who, coincidentally, was once Mark’s and Roger’s roommate.
Did you follow all that?
No matter, because as the story unfolds, each character’s idiosyncrasies become clear and are thrown at the audience for judgment and sympathy.
Larson’s story is written almost entirely in song as the characters live through an entire year filled with struggles, love and loss. But through it all, they learn what it means to stay together and the importance of friendship. Sappy? Maybe. But a beautiful story nonetheless.
The movie features almost the entire cast from the original Broadway production, which premiered in 1996. One actor to join the cast is Dawson, who has starred in other musical films such as “Josie and the Pussycats.” Although her singing talent was undetermined in that film, with a few solos in “Rent,” we will finally be able to know if she has a singing voice that can match the veteran Broadway performers.
The movie is directed by Chris Columbus and, according to him, casting the original actors brings more honesty to the film, as these people actually lived through Larson’s death the day before the play debuted on Broadway.
“If you have people too young, you have people that are 21 playing those roles on camera, on screen, I don’t think you’d buy it,” he said in an interview for about.com. “I think you have to believe that they’ve lived a little bit of a life. And anyway, they all look like they’re in their 20s and it’s going to be a remarkable movie just because of the sheer power.”
This movie could also herald in a new age of the movie musical and, despite it being given an R rating, it could still have the power and draw to bring back this kind of movie.
Although Columbus also says there will be more dialogue than was featured in the original play and another plot point will be added to enhance the film experience, the movie promises to be a huge success. With at least three trailers playing on rotation on television and much talk being passed around, the word is out on the season’s first and hottest musical. So .
“Forget regret or life is yours to miss / no other road no other way / no day but today.”