Century City, CA: ZachNews Photojournalist Zachary A. Lopez reports on his experience at FOX’s RENT: Live!
Hello everybody. As you all may already know, the musical production of RENT: Live!, which was planned to be live on FOX on the night of Sunday, January 27th, 2019, was changed after actor Brennin Hunt, who plays Roger in RENT: Live!, broke his right foot during dress rehearsal on Saturday, January 26th, 2019. On the day of the live broadcast and to the shock of the large crowd of people in the studio audience, the decision was made to broadcast Saturday’s dress rehearsal footage and broadcast live the last performance in RENT: Live!
Like the thousands of people who signed up for free tickets to be part of the RENT: Live! broadcast, I got my ticket and was in the studio audience to enjoy RENT: Live! Thus trip to RENT: Live! was to be for fun and a break from reporting news on ZachNews, but that news of Brennin Hunt breaking his right foot popped up just as we’re outside awaiting the live broadcast of RENT: Live! on FOX.
Viewers were understandingly upset that RENT: Live! wasn’t “Live,” many wishing that the show went on live as stated even if changes had to be made for Brennin Hunt as Roger in the condition he was in.
After reading some of the comments online and social media responding to how RENT: Live! went, and people wondering what was happening on set well they were watching the dress rehearsal footage, I decided to type up a news report sharing my experience in the studio audience for RENT: Live! and what viewers didn’t get to experience. So lets begin my experience at FOX’s RENT: Live!
When I arrived where the show was being filmed live, FOX Studios in Century City, California, there were a lot of people lined up. I asked how many people were here and was told around 1,000 to 2,000 people all wanting to experience FOX’s RENT: Live!
As you may know, ‘RENT’ talks about a close-knit struggling artists living in New York City, New York during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, we get to live what they lived through the social and political turmoil.
As well all waited for a few hours as staff with the ticket company and studio provided snacks and water for use to enjoy. I notice that people were anxiously waiting for RENT: Live! and hopefully get the chance to meet their favorite cast members, I so wanting to meet Vanessa Hudgens and enjoy her preform she has been preparing for RENT: Live! As we all waited, I began to check my online on my phone if there was anything happening related to RENT: Live! that we all will be happy to experience live. But just after 2:00 p.m. PT, I discovered a posting from the Hollywood Reporter (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/rent-live-star-injured-dress-rehearsal-1179596) saying that “‘Rent’ Live Will Go On — With Taped Segments — After Star’s Broken Foot.” “Hunt’s status for Sunday’s live broadcast on Fox is currently unknown, but the network and producers stress that the show will go on as planned — with Hunt onstage as Roger in some capacity,” the news article from the Hollywood Reporter said. “With the nature of Hunt’s injury not immediately available and the level of his participation unclear, Fox is going to use some taped parts from Saturday’s dress rehearsal during Sunday’s live broadcast.”
As you may know, ‘RENT’ is a physically demanding musical and cast members, including Brennin Hunt as Roger, are involved in a lot of dancing on stage and on scaffolding, rushing up and down stairs, rushing across multiple sets. Brennin Hunt confirmed that he had a broken foot, and this limited mobility on the stage as the actor’s right foot was in a massive cast. I began asking around if there was any more details on what is going to be happening with the show, but was told that they don’t know at this moment but are trying to find out. I talked with some of the people waiting for RENT: Live and they didn’t know until I told them what happen with Brennin Hunt, but soon we all were going to all find out together.
As we all walked into the studio set and the large metal doors closed, the announcement to the crowd that Brennin Hunt broke his foot during Saturday’s dress rehearsal. The crowd were in shock, some in the crowd said out loud “Oh Noooooo!”; many were sad about what happen to Brennin Hunt. Then the announcement was made that the show was going to go on but with viewers watching Saturday’s dress rehearsal footage, and as what was announced on television, the cast and crew came together to work on the final act in RENT: Live! with Brennin Hunt, which is in the third hour of the show around 15 minutes before the ending of the show. This was also to the shock of many in the crowd as well as I was very sad that I wasn’t going to be enjoying Vanessa Hudgens’ performance which I had front standing roll view, but that decision must have been made for the right reason and so I was just happy to be part of the RENT: Live! experience.
What was next announced shortly after was that taking pictures and videos of the performances were being allowed during the show, which is usually not allowed and is stated on the audience’s tickets, but those involved in the production of RENT: Live! encourage everybody to take pictures or recording video then share their experience on social media.
So the show began, I noticed that the Saturday’s dress rehearsal footage was being showed on television well we in the crowd had cast members performing but in different outfits for Saturday’s dress rehearsal. Despite some fake and troll reporting on social media, there was actually singing from the cast and music playing from the band set up high above in the scaffolding.
This is video I filmed from the “Pit” audience area that shows the cast performing ‘Seasons of Love’. The cast was singing and the band was playing, and they all did great.
This is another video I filmed from the “Pit” audience area that shows Maureen (Vanessa Hudgens) performance ‘Take Me Or Leave Me’ with Joanne (Kiersey Clemons). Even with the scene being conducted on the other end of the stage, Vanessa Hudgens’ singing was amazing and was so happy to be there to experience her wonderful performance.
As for the cameras that were following the cast I was wasn’t sure. If the cameras not filming, then the cameras must of been props to help the cast to where they need to be facing towards, but if the cameras were filming, then I hope dearly that the footage be showed so you all can experience what we all were experiencing, maybe call the show ” RENT: Live! Audience.”
During the commercial breaks, the cast came towards the studio audience, including where I was at in the “Pit” audience area which I got to give a high five from Kiersey Clemons who played Joanne in RENT: Live! The studio audience then got to say hello to Brennin Hunt, who was wheeled near the crowd of people in the “Pit” audience area. The crowd went crazy, showing their love and support for Brennin Hunt. Brandon Victor Dixon (who played Tom Collins) shook hands with he people in the crowd well Jordan Fisher (who plays as Mark Cohen) was talking pictures with the crowd.
This is another video I filmed from the “Pit” audience area at the end of a musical performance that shows Brennin Hunt, who plays Roger, saying hello to the crowd in front of me and shaking hands with fans well on his wheelchair which was being moved around by Tinashe (who plays Mimi).
The crowd was so happy to get to still meet Brennin Hunt, some I notice in tears happy to get to reach out and touch him. The cast kept the crowd up, even getting them into the moment of the show when there was cheering, protesting and even being sad.
When the show went to live, I crowd was told what was the upcoming scene going to be; for us in our “Pit” audience area, we were encourage to be part of the upcoming scene, to be sad and in the moment of sadness; this was the scene where Mimi (played by Tinashe) was being carried up the stairs to Roger (played by Brennin Hunt) and Mimi was sick and might die. Everybody lined along the began to get prepare to be in the live broadcast shot. As the camera began to film the scene, the people around me as well as myself were in that moment, finding out that our friend was found sick and is hurting; sad and concern for Mimi. I was near the stairway in the blue button shirt as Mimi was helped up the stairs by Joanne (Kiersey Clemons) and Maureen, played by the great Vanessa Hudgens. I as well as the group in front of me was so happy that Vanessa Hudgens was so close to where we all were standing, but we all stayed in the moment, of being sad and concern for Mimi.
As the live scene went on, I notice from the “Pit” audience area there were people tearing up, the story and the song the cast preformed hit something that connected with the audience. Several scenes and their songs preformed by this cast in the show hit their marks getting the audience connected to what they were feeling.
** Video Above from FOX on YouTube: **
When the cast preformed the “Will I?” song – which takes place during a life support meeting and expresses the pain and fear of living a life with AIDS – nailed on the moment and got the audience connected into their pain. You felt how somebody would feel just finding out that they had AIDS; how to live life from this point on and to live each day to the fullest. Even with viewers were watching this scene on television from the day before, the mood in the studio was sad, tearful and silent as audience members held candles added to the realness to the moment.
** Video Above from FOX on YouTube: **
This connection to moment and feeling what they were feeling happened again in the show during the Angel’s funeral scene as friends come together to mourn and remember Angel (Valentina) and Tom Collins (Brandon Victor Dixon) sang “I’ll Cover You”, had the crowd in the studio were in tears, another song the cast hit their mark on and had us connecting to the moment, and more tears would follow later in the show in the scenes with Mimi and Roger.
** Video Above from FOX on YouTube: **
Mimi and Roger singing of “Without You” had you feeling of being alone, losing somebody you love and how will you live afterwards; tears rolled from me as I felt those emotions of noting wanting to be alone without the person you love; if its the loss of somebody you love from a break up or a deadly disease, the song had me asking how could you live without the people you love?
Tears began again during the live scene when Mimi was being helped up the stairs to Roger’s place. Maureen (Vanessa Hudgens) saying “She (Mimi) was hurt, in the park, in the dark and she was freezing….” I felt what Maureen was feeling as she said that. As her friends lay Mimi down next to Roger, Roger being told that Mimi was living on the streets, shivering from being cold. I felt the pain everybody around her were having; wondering that she might died and how to help her get better. The tears rolled more as Maureen said to “call on a doctor honey” as Mimi said “don’t waste your money on me,” in the way like she wanted to just give up on her life.
As her friend work to keep her warm, Mimi softly said “Cold, cold, would you light my candle?” to Roger; her face in the state of cold and about to pass away; Roger saying, “Oh god, find a…” feeling like there’s got to be something more to do to help her from not dying kept the tears flowing, I wanted her to not give up and live.
** Video Above from FOX on YouTube: **
Roger holds on to Mimi and tells her that she was the song he was trying to write, and soon after he began to sing “Your Eyes”; singing that before the end (death) I want to tell you – I love you. that moment with Roger telling Mimi that he loved her and didn’t want to go just kicked in the tears in the crowd again, including myself, we were all feeling that tearful moment about to loss somebody you love but just never had the chance to say that you love them, and now by their bedside, you hold on to them pleading not to go and finally saying that you love them so much; I and others around me were just tearing up from that moment; another great performance nailed that grabbed us in the crowd into that tearful moment.
** Video Above from RENT on FOX: **
At the end of the show, the crowd was cheering as the original cast of ‘RENT’ sang “Season of Love” and as the cast of RENT: Live join the original cast of ‘RENT’, everybody was clapping, singing and dancing which included myself, and as the credits rolled on television, the cast danced, thanked the crowd and showed love for their fans who despite not being what happen regarding the live broadcast of RENT: Live! were still in a good spirit, even thanking everybody on the studio set for a great work they all did for us all.
** Overall Experience: **
I never got to watch the original ‘RENT’ before finding out about RENT: Live!, but after experiencing real emotions from RENT: Live! I’ve become a fan. The performances by this wonderful cast and the songs preformed by a fantastic band hit their mark in drawing in or connecting the audience into the moment, especially the scene that got you tearing up.
I want to say that what happened to Brennin Hunt just before the big live broadcast was unfortunate, and we all hope for a full speedy recovery for Brennin Hunt, but despite what wannabe critics and trolls may say, this cast did an outstanding performances escalloping following what happen to Brennin Hunt. I am so proud of this cast and crew who worked so hard to put on a outstanding performance and for connecting us to what they were feeling, by story telling or by song.
I want to say thank you to the entire cast of RENT: Live!; Jordan Fisher as Mark Cohen, Brennin Hunt as Roger Davis, Tinashe as Mimi Marquez, Brandon Victor Dixon as Tom Collins, Valentina as Angel Dumott Schunard, Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen Johnson, Kiersey Clemons as Joanne Jefferson and Mario as Benjamin Coffin III; the original cast of RENT, the band who provided the music for RENT: Live! for their hard work preforming on such a powerful story, and for deciding to stay and perform for the studio audience of fans that love you all and truly appreciated your great performance.
I want to also say thank you to everybody behind the scene putting together RENT: Live! and making sure that us in the studio audience were kept happy and safe, including all of the staff at On-Camera Audience as well as the fire department, medical crews, and security personal and dogs; you all kept the show going and kept us all in the studio audience safe and protected and from what I witnessed the audiences showed their appreciation.
Thanks to Jeff and Glenda for coming along to experience with me RENT: Live! and I encourage you all to go to On Camera Audiences (http://on-camera-audiences.com/) so you can experience what I experience at RENT: Live!
** You can watch RENT: Live! at the following FOX website address: **
I hope you enjoyed the experience I had at FOX’s RENT: Live! and hope you watch the show and give you love and thanks to all of those in front of the camera and behind the camera who worked hard putting together RENT: Live!
** Pictures and Videos from ZachNews: **