Leaving a production of "Rent" a few weeks ago, I overheard the following conversation between a girl (approximately 14 years old) and her father (approximately middle-aged):
GIRL: Come on, Dad! Just admit it; you liked the show.
DAD: It was okay. But listen, I know what a good rock n' roll musical is. When I was younger, I saw "Hair." Now THAT was a rock musical.
GIRL: Daaaaadddd!!! That was so LAME. And Ricki Lake was in it.
Apparently unfamiliar with "Hair," the girl thought that her father meant "Hair Spray," a movie staring Ricki Lake, that is actually LAME. Siskel and Ebert both called it "a very stupid movie for the whole family." Of course I'm kidding; they called it a very, very stupid movie. And although I haven't seen "Hair Spray," I must agree with them since my little sister likes it so much. The exchange leads me to conclude that the father would have enjoyed the production much more if it had starred Ricki Lake.
Seriously, the conversation leads me to believe that the reason so many young Americans have fallen in love with "Rent" is because they have never seen any another musicals ever.
I, however, have seen other musicals and all of them were better than "Rent" – the one exception being my sister's junior high production of "Peter Pan." But junior high just wasn't a happening time for her, what with watching so much "Hair Spray" and all.
I think part of the problem with "Rent" was the fact that the music was so loud that I couldn't hear the vocalists very well. And as the show went on, I couldn't hear the music very well, though this may have been because my fingers were in my ears.
Even my sister who likes "Hair Spray" thought the music was painfully loud. And, at the risk of sounding like somebody's once-cool father, I want you to know that I went to at least a dozen Grateful Dead concerts in high school, so don't think that I can't deal with loud music about drugs. I just can't deal with bad loud music about drugs.
In my opinion, a good musical means memorable song lyrics. I found most of "Rent's" lyrics pathetic. I expect to leave the theater with at least one or two songs in my head (people with bigger heads may have more songs in their heads). But the only thing I could remember was that there are 525,600 minutes in a year and Santa Fe is a city in New Mexico. While this isn't bad for "Sesame Street," I expect more from Broadway.
The story, although touching at times, didn't mean much to me. Rather than leaving with a warm feeling in my heart, I had an empty feeling in my pocket – and not just because I have a hard time relating to a bunch of heroine addicts modeling the Urban Outfitters fall line. I actually felt cheated out of my $60.
When I opened the program before the show started, a stack of paper fell out on to my lap, informing me that the role of the beautiful and talented so-and-so would be performed by a less attractive and, therefore, much less competent understudy. Since four of the six lead roles were played by understudies – and since understudies are, at most, half as good – my ticket should only have cost $40.
At the end of the show, rather than asking, "So what happens?" (and those of you who have seen "Rent" know what I'm talking about), I wanted to know, "So where's my other $20 bucks?" And to those of you who have not seen "Rent," those of you who plan to wake up at 6 a.m. some morning and wait in line in your residential college office to get "Rent" tickets at a more reasonable price, let me offer you a bit of advice: sleep in.