Rent' Opens at Syracuse Stage

I remember seeing that film version on another bitter winter night in Albany when it opened on Thanksgiving in national wide release. Just those few short years ago, more of the Rhodes clan gathered in Albany for Thanksgiving than do now and the tradition was, after the men did the dishes, that we all went to the movies, usually picked by the women. There was very little discussion in 2005 over what we'd see. My niece Rachel, who has pursued a career in musical theatre single-mindedly since about the age of five - her single-mindedness matched only by her mother's in organizing the entire family ever since to attend Rachel's performances, wherever they might be - was set on "Rent," and her anticipation was infectious. So off we went through the freezing twilight, young and old, with our own personal expert guide, primed and prepared to love this movie. Given the score and the cast - a proven combination capable of selling literally thousands of even-then pricey Broadway tickets - you'd think it would've been sure-fire on the big screen.

I am sorry to say, as you may know, that it wasn't. While the stage play steamed on for another three years, the film - so much more convenient and less expensive - sank pretty fast. Preoccupied with the sudden ability to show the keys being tossed down from a tenement window to the street, or to set the full-cast dinner scene in an actual train-car-style diner instead of just suggesting one with lighting and a long table, or to just shoot off over the rooftops every so often for no particular reason other than the glory of doing it, the apparent liberation by cinema was mostly distracting. The movie's diner scene actually was memorable, but this impulse for flinging the audience off into the sky is one I've noticed in other film adaptations of stage plays too.

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