Playlist of the Month: Tiempos De Amor and More

Happy birthday, Rent! Jonathan Larson’s musical premiered 20 years ago today, and in that time Rent has transformed popular musical theater, changed lives, and traveled the world. It’s a testament to Jonathan Larson’s vision that this musical, set in the very specific time and place of Alphabet City in the late 80s-mid 90s, still resonates across the globe. Rent has now been performed on every continent except Antarctica (and maybe Antarctica too, if any of those research scientists are theater geeks). Today, rather than celebrating Rent’s 20th anniversary with the OBC renditions we’ve loved since we were way too young to understand them, we’re taking a look at how Rent has been adapted and translated to reach audiences worldwide.

Rent, Japan

After Rent debuted on Broadway, it quickly became a hit sensation. Producers decided to capitalize on its success by bring the musical to different cities around the world. A mere two years later, Rent opened in Japan, at the height of Rent-mania. Here we see truly contemporary scenes, including an Asian Joanne wearing fake dreads like her African-American counterpart, and it may or may not be cultural appropriation. I find it funny that Japanese words tend to be English words but just said differently, or when you just hear a rando English word like, “headline” news, “Trick-or-Treat” and of course “RENT!”

Fun fact: for a quick second at the beginning of the clip, you see an older gentleman with glasses – that is Al Larson, father of Jonathan Larson. To this day, he goes to as many Rent productions around the world as he can, acting as a representation for his late son and their family.

One Song Glory, Norway

I’d like to preface this by saying I’m still not sure if this is a high school production or not, but either way, this Roger isn’t exactly as strong as Adam Pascal. With all these international versions I find myself translating it into English and thinking I’m fluent in whatever language it’s in. Finna = Find in Norwegian!

Light My Candle, Greece

It’s clear that hundreds, maybe even thousands, of pretty women have gotten the chance to play Mimi Marquez, and in Greece, she was played by this gal, who I sincerely think is great and one of the better foreign singers I’ve heard so far. Words I understood: Papou (all thanks to Full House and the passing of Papouli).

Tango Maureen, Brasil

For the Tango Maureen, why would we look anyplace other than Latin America? (Okay, Argentina would have been ideal, but it sounds good in Portuguese). Language aside, Joanne seems so different in this production that it’s worth watching. Also, how is sunny, warm Brazil the only production to nail cold-weather clothing?

Out Tonight, Germany

*FYI the sound is really bad on this, so don’t put it on max vol!* Is it me or does Out Tonight just sound slightly aggressive in German?

I’ll Cover You, Korea

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t Angel and Collins being exactly the same, but Korean. Remember in The Simpsons where there’s alternate universe Maggie with the unibrow? That’s what it feels like. Equally adorable, in any language or continent.

La Vie Boheme, Spain

Including a Spanish production was a no-brainer, since that was my major in college and I spent almost 5 months in Madrid. But here’s a little secret: this song is like 50% people’s names and foods and you could translate this into English with a year of junior high Spanish. It still really, really works in Spanish though.

Seasons of Love, Cuba

Seasons of Love is already a beautiful song, but when it’s sung in a literal romantic language, it just makes it that more beautiful. And emotional. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Without You, Montreal

I don’t know about you all, but when I think heartbreak, I think French. You know how some songs sound just wrong in other languages – the meter or the generally feel is just off? Somehow, Rent sounds great in almost every language, but this one is especially nice in French.

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Questions, Comments & Concerns: Rent

Like any successful project with a rabid fan base, there’s a desire, and maybe even more so now, an expectation for additional installments (see: all the Fast & Furious movies, Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, Prison Break, for some reason). Same rang true for Rent. In the years following, a Rent movie had always been a topic of discussion and the OG cast members were always asked when a movie was going to happen. And nearly 10 years after Rent debuted in 1996, a big screen adaptation of the blockbuster musical finally premiered in the fall of 2005.

It was received with mixed reviews from fans and critics, so we decided to re-watch the film and get to the bottom of why it was loved by some and hated by others. Conclusion:

Question: Why isn’t Daphne Rubin-Vega in this again?

T: I could look up the politics of this again but I don’t remember why Daphne Rubin-Vega was replaced with Rosario Dawson? Because she’s too “old”? She’s “not hot enough”? They needed a “movie star”?

M: I was thinking about this while driving the other day (secondary theme of the week: we are not cool). I decided she was working on another project at the time, which may be a lie. (OK, looked it up: she was pregnant.) Either way, Mimi is harder than all of the other characters to play 10 years after the musical premiered, because it is the only one saddled with a very specific, very young age (19, looks 16). Which brings me to:

Concern: Everyone Is Old

M: I’m no spring chicken, so that’s not an insult. But all of the OBC actors are a decade older than they were when they were cast in the musical, and it is central to the plot that these are vibrant idealists in the prime of life. It still works, and I will gladly suspend disbelief to see this many original cast members reprise their breakout roles. But the characters read different when they look like urban professionals in their 30s. I can tell you that at almost 30, my response to almost every situation in Rent, were it to happen in my real life, would be “I am too damn old for this.”

T: And for me, what was weird that I thought some of them looked younger than I thought they were when I watched it a decade ago. So young-looking old people playing the role of 1990s “millennials” is what this film features.

Concern: December 24 … 1989?

M: This was controversial when the movie came out (controversial for those of us who are too invested in film adaptations of musicals, anyway). The musical was set in the present day (at first) and as time wore on, around the era when it was released: the mid-90s. 1989 was when Jonathan Larson began his work on it. I’m not sure why this decision was made. Is it because in 2005, it was hard to conceive of a 90s period piece? Or because 1989 feels more like peak AIDS crisis? Because Mimi would look adorable in 80s clothes?

Anyway. There are some scenes where it doesn’t really work – cyber cafes were SO 90s, and I feel like we didn’t start talking about the end of the millennium until the mid 90s – but I don’t mind it too much. I’m mostly amazed at how they created a gritty version of the New York of 1980s Sesame Street eps.

Comment: IMDb makes me smart

T: Fun fact: There are two v notable names listed as executive producers of this project: Robert De Niro (of Robert De Niro) and Jeffrey Seller, who produced small hits such as Avenue Q, In The Heights and Hamilton, a show we never talk about, ever.

Comment: Tune Up #1

T: I actually like how they turned Tune Up #1 into Mark’s speaking monologue so it doesn’t come off as too “musical-y” but for the Rent-heads out there, I’m sure you found it just as hard not singing along to it. This is a choice they make throughout the movie, and for the most part, I think it’s smart. But at times it just sounds like they’re doing some sort of sing-songy slam poetry.

M: Plus, it keeps the movie from being 3 hours long. Source: church is always longer when the priest sings all of the talk-y bits instead of speaking them.

Concern: I now identify with Benny more than anyone else.

M: Benny realized that he’s 28 (made up age), married Allison Hendrix Gray, and acknowledged that in America, at the end of the millennium, you gotta collect rent on the building you own that’s gonna be prime real estate in 15 years.  What happened to his heart? It’s the Bush I era and a man’s gotta make a buck.

But maybe I’m just saying that because Taye Diggs is a beautiful, beautiful man and he is KILLING IT in You’ll See.

T: I momentarily seethed when he started to speak the lines from You’ll See in fear we wouldn’t get to hear him sing the one song that’s his in the entire show.

Comment: Oh Benny

Benny rolls up to Alphabet City in his Range Rover and is immediately surrounded by protesting tenants angrily singing Rent to him. Rough start.

Comment: I love Angel.

M: Wilson Jermaine Heredia plays Angel with the perfect mix of humor, life, and too-good-to-be-true kindness. Angel/Collins is one of my favorite musical couples.

Comment: Can I get a light

T: I understand the point is that the power blows but it’s darker than How to Get Away With Murder up in here.

M: Like when we were watching Cheers, I had to adjust my set because half of the background is just black blobs with the occasional string of Christmas lights. Mimi says our eyes will adjust.

Comment: April looks like a young Poehler + Gillian Anderson

M: And everyone looks 200% more 80s in the flashbacks. Just how long ago was that supposed to be?

Concern: Did Rosario Dawson miss her musical calling?

How did Rent effect Rosario Dawson’s potential musical theater career?? JK.

Comment: Mimi’s junkie makeup is really effective.

M: That might sound like faint praise but I mean it – she looks strung out and feverish but not in a gross way?

Concern: I now identify with Mark more than anyone else.

Mark, talking about his parents’ laborious message on the answering machine: “There are times when we’re dirt broke, hungry, and freezing, and I ask myself, why the hell am I still living here? And then they call. And I remember.”

T: Same, Mark. Same.

Concern: When the characters are in their late 30s they just sound like people who talk too much about brunch.

M: E.g., Mark says to Collins “so that’s why you could afford to splurge on us” and  it sounds like nothing so much as two guys discussing who’s buying the mimosas this week.

Comment: Angel’s entrance

T: But can you just imagine meeting someone like for the first time like this? Comes in dancing and singing with a plastic pickle tub about killing a random woman’s dog? I’d be like WHO IS THIS PERSON

M: Is Angel on coke? Because that is not a normal human energy level. Also also, believe it or not, Angel in Rent is when I first learned about using the pronouns people choose for themselves, because it was 1996 and I was 9.

Comment: I truly love Tracie Thoms

T: I’m fine with not bringing back Fredi Walker – Tracie is a better match chemistry wise with Idina.

M: Yes. Fredi Walker isn’t at all matronly, but her Joanne was more staid and mature, which made Maureen seem even more like a attention-seeking kid.

Comment: Tango Maureen hotness

T: I’m v into Joanne serving business chic & Idina serving tango dancer hotness.

M: I love how the dialogue about how Mark vs Joanne learned to dance shows, in two lines, exactly what kind of upper middle class kid each was.

Comment: They nailed Joanne’s 80s businesswoman attire.

Jheri curl, wide short tie, suspenders, statement earrings. It works.

Comment: Mighty Ducks meets Gilmore

As mentioned the other day in our Dream Cast post, there are two people of note in Life Support – Wayne Wilcox (Marty from Gilmore Girls) and Aaron Lohr (D2 & D3: Mighty Ducks and Newsies), two people from your youth you definitely didn’t expect to be in the Rent movie.

Question: Are New York/Pittsburgh exotic dancer scenes different?

When I watched Flashdance for the first time, I learned stripping in Pittsburgh during the 80s involved Japanese Kabuki, and apparently exotic dancing in New York in the early ’90s

Question: Will I?

T: How many of y’alls tried getting your friends to sing Will I in a round like this be honest

M: Just another Friday night in high school with the theater kids, hanging out in a basement rec room singing about “will I lose my dignity.”

Comment: The homeless woman is the voice of all of us watching Rent after our idealist phase has ended.

“Hey artist? Got a dollar. Didn’t think so.”

Question: Anyone else wanna hand out hand sanitizer after Santa Fe?

Everyone’s hands are ALL OVER the subway railings. (I remember being on the subway with a drunk friend in college who insisted on doing weird flips like Collins, and I was like okay, I’ll be at the end of the car pretending something’s happening on my phone BYE)

Question: What is Computer Age Philosphy (Actual Reality)?

T: I truly have no idea.

Question: Why are these two the cutest?

M: I’m going to go ahead and call I’ll Cover You the most adorable duet in musical history … even if this relationship is moving crazy fast. If you’re Jesse L. Martin or Wilson Jermaine Heredia, and you meet someone as cute as you are, you don’t let that pass you by.

Collins: Are we a thing?

Angel: Darling… we’re everything!

Why did they take that line out?!?!

T: Fun fact: This version of I’ll Cover You used to be my ringtone. I was the coolest.

Concern: The Rent/Hamilton effect

T: Roger says “Look around!” and I immediately continued sing, “look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now!” Ah the irony of being obsessed with a musical which was in part influenced by the musical you’re watching.

Question: How does Maureen have this many fans

M: Yeah, but not counting the homeless, how many tickets weren’t comped?

Comment: This shot of Idina

Actually, no comment at all.

Question: What do you think the crowd at the performance space smells like?

M: Me, I think weed, cigarettes, those alternative deodorants that don’t work.

T: Clove cigarettes (to be specific), patchouli, burnt newspapers, shattered hopes & dreams.

Comment: Financial woes

I love how Angel proves they can pay for dinner this time by flashing him a folded bill

Question: How does Benny think he’s going to “break ground in mid-January”?

Shit’s frozen.

Comment: Viva La Vie Boheme

Just for once I’d like to act out this scene in a legit production. Not even the whole show, just this scene. They have fun.

M: Seconded.

LOL Mark’s solo dance – I’ve never related so much to him. Except all the other times.

M: OH LORD get me a gif of Mark in that moment and project it onto my tombstone.

Concern: I almost fast-forwarded through Seasons of Love because it’s too sad.

M: Lest you think a 20-year-old musical can’t move me anymore, I almost start crying at Seasons of Love. Goal: all 2+ hours of this, no tears.

T: I mean, fair. The line, “How do you figure a last year on earth?” like, stop it.

M: I’m also noticing that Seasons of Love is very obviously the song they included to be a breakout hit. Like, “okay, we need one song in a basic pop structure with no swearing or weird sex stuff in it so we can go on the Rosie show.”

Comment: All Angel all the time pls

After a night of celebrating New year’s Eve, the gang arrives back at their building only to find a padlock on the door. Angel swiftly grabs a trash can to knock it off, and after she triumphs, an equally inebriated Collins asks, “You gonna put that trash can back?” and a definitely not drunk Angel replies, “No”. The best delivery.

Comment: I FORGOT SARAH SILVERMAN IS IN THIS

M: I forgot both that she was in it and that she was SO GOOD as a cold businessperson.

Concern: For Mark’s overall wellbeing

T: Proposing (to your girlfriend) in front of your ex(boyfriend) is a ballsy move, Maureen. I just can’t get over how much I am Mark.

M: Me too. I am Mark in the same ways that I am Chandler.

Question: Exactly how long have Maureen and Joanne been together?

M: Because Collins didn’t know Mark and Maureen had broken up, and Joanne and Mark just met, but apparently Maureen and Joanne are engaged.

T: U-Hauls, amirite?

Comment: Maureen’s kind of a bitch

“Every single day I walk down the street. I hear people say ‘Baby’ so sweet… There will always be women in rubber.” Maureen… calm down.

Comment: Benny and Mimi

T: I still don’t get how characteristically, Benny would want to date Mimi? He seems super pretentious ever since he moved out of Alphabet City, and looks down on everyone who lives there.

Concern: Without You is a lot more graphic in the film adaptation

M: We are treated to Mimi’s delirium tremens (I think?), the ever-shrinking support group, Angel’s scary looking fever, hospitalization, drug buying, strip clubs, all that. I’m just going to go ahead and say I can never tell when people are supposed to be sick from drugs stuff vs AIDS stuff. Anyway. Without You is like the opposite of those montages of people having wacky fun and falling in love.

Question: Will I be able to make it through the I’ll Cover You Reprise without crying?

Comment: No. And ugly crying at that.

M: At least Traci cried vs me, who just fast-forwarded through the whole funeral. I know I said I am a Chandler, but I have a strong Joey Tribbiani “book in the freezer” mentality for stuff I don’t want to see.

T: Like Hannah Horvath, I am a glutton for pain. We’re just a blog about comparing ourselves to fictional characters now.

Comment: I am Mark reason #1094

T: Mark says, “Come on guys chill” during Goodbye Love when everyone is fighting. Excuse me while I go find a vintage videocamera and start documenting my friends’ terrible love lives.

Question: You know what I miss?

Using yuppie as an insult. (NB, I am technically a yuppie now? )

Question: How many times do you think Anthony Rapp & Adam Pascal have had to sing What You Own in their lifetime?

Approx a million.

Comment: I am Mark reason #1095

“Dive into work, drive the other way.” Me too, Mark. Me too.

Concern: Everytime I hear the phone ring i have a Pavlov dog’s response to getting up to answer the landline

Comment: Your Eyes

You Eyes, a mediocre song at best, is not a song Roger should be singing to Mimi on her “deathbed”. Like I know this scene is sad and everyhting, but this song would not be the last one I’d want to hear. ever

Question: What disease is Mimi having?

Is this AIDS? Hypothermia? Drug overdose? Picturesque yet vague musical theater malady?

Comment: I reflexively sing all of the lines in my head that they’re speaking here.

e.g., I rewired the ATM at the food emporium to provide an honorarium to anyone with the code.

Question:You know what I didn’t account for during rent week?

T: Literally ALL THE TIMES THAT SHE CRIED

America, At The End Of The Millennium: Rent As A 90s Period Piece

Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking 1996 musical Rent takes place over approximately 525,600 minutes – but which 525, 600 minutes were they? The stage musical is silent on the year. The movie is set in 1989. But if you found a person who was reasonably well-versed in recent history and pop culture (except that they know nothing about Rent) and had them watch the musical, they’d probably come up with some year between 1993 and 1998.

Yes, Rent is a dated musical, and I mean that in only the most complimentary way. Jonathan Larson set out to make a contemporary musical – his generation’s Hair. He wrote, in 2016 musical theater terms, how Alexander Hamilton did, how Lin-Manuel Miranda does. Larson wrote like he was running out of time. He didn’t know it, but he was: Jonathan Larson died on January 25, 1996. It was the morning before Rent’s first Off Broadway preview. Alterations were made before the Broadway premiere on April 29, 1996, but only using Larson’s words. Therefore, we have a very clear stop-point in the chronology of Rent. Even if it is staged in the “present day,” Rent was written without knowledge of any events taking place after January 25, 1996.

Still, the amazing thing about Rent in the 90s was how modern it was – modern in a way no other musical was. Rent addressed technology, AIDS, trans* identity, sexual orientation, drug use and gentrification. In contrast, look at the other top-grossing Broadway shows of 1996: The Phantom Of The Opera, Beauty and the Beast, Show Boat, Les Miserables, Sunset Boulevard. Your grandma would have liked them – in fact, your grandma could have liked some of them in her youth. Cats was still in the midst of its epic run. The next-edgiest show was probably Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk, and it didn’t even bring in THAT much funk. (I kid, we love tap.)

So for the earlier part of Rent’s run, Rent was set in the present – even if Jonathan Larson’s present didn’t extend past early 1996. For example, costume designers constantly trawled hip neighborhoods to make sure their cool young characters looked up to date. For years, the libretto held up to a modern interpretation. Cyber cafes, check. Urban drug boom, check. End of the millennium, answering machines, pay phones: check, check and check.

Then, one by one, the references from Jonathan Larson’s book became dated. It’s a bit like when somebody you love dies. First you find yourself writing out checks using a year they never saw, then you’re singing along to songs they didn’t live to hear. One day you look at a photo of them and they don’t look like somebody from the present day anymore: their clothes and hair mark them as a member of the past. So it was with Rent. By 2000, the theme of “America at the end of the millennium” was obsolete (OK, 2001 if we’re being real pedantic about it). Nobody really used the word cyber anymore, and anyway, we didn’t have special Internet places like Benny’s cyber arts space. The answering machine – plot device of so many great 80s and 90s works – was a thing of the past. These people have a land line? What are they, millionaires? To that end, Joanne’s cell phone no longer marked her as an upwardly-mobile, always-connected lawyer. HIV and AIDS are still prevalent, and still more common in communities with a high rate of intravenous drug use, but mercifully, AIDS doesn’t wipe out whole friend groups in the way it did in the 80s and early 90s. And although we voted for a platform of hope in 2008, a lot of the unbounded, youthful optimism of Rent died, at least for a while, after 2001.

By the time Rent was adapted for film in 2005, it was very obviously not modern. Even if you cut out the end of the millennium spiel, you couldn’t slap low-rise jeans and trucker hats on everybody and call it 2005. Jonathan Larson succeeded; he created a musical that defined his time so well that only 5 to 10 years after its release, you could already pinpoint in which era it must have been written. The filmmakers had to choose when to set Rent, and they chose 1989. There’s plenty to recommend 1989. That’s the year Jonathan Larson came up with the early concept for Rent. The AIDS crisis was at its peak. The Tompkins Square Park riot was just the year before.

The movie works – 1989 works – but I still say there’s a little more evidence that the original musical was intended to take place in the 90s. Through years of revisions, Larson incorporated references that wouldn’t have existed in 1989. Cyberarts seems 90s – cyber as a prefix didn’t really take off until that decade. As far as millennia go, 1989 is pretty close to the end of one, but the “end of the millennium” talk gained more traction in the 90s (that’s when we weren’t self-referentially explaining “it’s the 90s.”) Even the relationship that served as Larson’s inspiration for Maureen and Mark didn’t occur until the 90s (although it could as well have happened in the 80s). Most stage productions seem to have taken the 90s concept and run with it. I looked up a few school productions, bright-eyed teenagers done up in 1996 cosplay, imagining a year before they were even born. It’s how we must have looked on 80s day during spirit week in high school in the early 2000s. The teachers must have hated us.

Whichever year you want to place Rent in, it seems pretty clear that it’s somewhere between 1989, when Jonathan Larson’s idea took root, and 1996, when he died. In a play that tells us that there is no future, and there is no past, Rent takes place right now: but it takes place in Jonathan Larson’s right now, and for the last 20 years, for a few hours, we get to live there, too.

No Shame Playing The Fame Game: A Rent Dream Cast

When Rent was originally developed off-Broadway in 1995, the cast was comprised of both newbies and veteran actors, but the one thing they all had in common was talent. Adam Pascal, much like Roger, was an aspiring rocker when he stumbled across the audition for Rent. He had never really done musical theater before – in fact, the blocking for One Song Glory in which he goes back and forth from a table was designed specifically so he could look at pages of the script to rememeber his lines. Meanwhile, his co-star Anthony Rapp had already made his Broadway debut 15 years prior to taking the Nederlander stage.

And over the past two decades, casting for Rent in productions around the world have followed the same formula. You get a handful of “Adams” (Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pals Karen Olivo and Leslie Odom Jr.) and “Anthonys” (Neil Patrick Harris, Mel B, Joey Fatone).

With all this talent floating around for the past 20 years, I got to thinking what a production would look like if I put the best of the best together in one dream cast. Let me tell you it’s harder than it seems, just because so many people have come and gone in these iconic roles over the past two decades. I will say that I tried to not use OBC members since they’re lit’rally on a different level (I mean, just look at these bbs at the ’96 Tony Awards), so here are some of my faves who have been to Alphabet City and were the best to tell the epic story of Rent.

Skyler Astin as Mark Cohen and Aaron Tveit as Roger Davis

Every year, the folks at the Hollywood Bowl pick a musical to present for one weekend in the summer, and it’s usually a star-studded affair. They’ve done Hairspray, Spamalot, and this year they’re doing A Chorus Line, but in 2010, Neil Patrick Harris (who played Mark in a ’97 national tour) was put in charge as the director of Rent. And he managed to get a super talented cast on board – Wayne Brady (Collins), Vanessa Hudgens (Mimi), Nicole Scherzinger (Maureen), and Gwen Stewart, who reprised her role from the OBC as the soloist in Seasons of Love. But the real highlight was a pre-Pitch Perfect and post-Next to Normal Aaron Tveit as Mark and Roger, respectively. This duo alone made me immediately purchase a ticket (again, one of the eight times I’ve seen Rent). Both Aaron and Skyler are amazing singers and Broadway vets, so commanding an audience of 17,000 in an outdoor amphitheater is no small feat, but both got the job done and done well. They were perfectly cast and also had good chemistry between themselves, which bodes well as the core of the Rent family. I think I passed out during What You Own.

Renee Elise Goldsberry as Mimi Márquez

Before she was looking for a mind at work, Renee Elise Goldsberry was looking for a light and her stash of heroin in Rent. The goddesss that we all know and love from Hamilton was the last person to play Mimi on Broadway when it closed in 2008. Renee played her version of Mimi as sexy, cool, and vulnerable all at the same time, and of course had the pipes to back it up. I also managed to see the final Broadway run (2 of 8, #humblebrag) and when I stage doored the cast, I legit have a picture that’s currently up on Facebook of a pic of Renee posing for a picture *with someone else that’s not me* and the caption reads, “renee … something or other. she played mimi. she was also on one life to live.” Oh 2008 Traci. Little did you know.

Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins

Ok, here’s one of two exceptions I made with the OBC. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing as good a job as Jesse L. Martin did with Collins. Few have come close, but I don’t think anyone’s been able to capture the same heart and sorrow Jesse conveyed as Collins. And separately, Jesse is a fantastic actor, while also an astounding singer, and no where else does this come through the best than when he sings the I’ll Cover You reprise. There hasn’t been a time I’ve watched him sing this where I haven’t cried.

Justin Johnson as Angel Dumott Schunard

Justin was Renee’s co-star in the final Broadway cast, and akin to Jesse, it’s hard to live up to the OG cast, especially following Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who took home a Tony for playing Angel. But there was something about Justin in this role that *gave Angel new wings*. I remember thinking he made the role feel fresh, and exciting again. After 12 years, there have been Angels who copy Wilson, and Angels who take it too far, but Justin was jussttt right. He also had outstanding chemistry with his Collins, played by Michael McElroy, who might come up again later.

Annaleigh Ashford as Maureen Johnson

Honestly, if you don’t like Annaleigh Ashford don’t talk to me. This girl is amazing in everything she does, frankly it’s annoying. From Wicked to Kinky Boots to Masters of Sex, she manages to bring humor and heart to every role. If Idina can’t be Maureen, I want Annaleigh to be Maureen in everything. This role is so perfect for her, I almost can’t even watch it.

Tracie Thoms as Joanne Jefferson

Tracie had been auditioning for Rent for eight years before booking the role of Joanne in the movie – she was a legit Renthead that proved dreams could come true. And not only did she appear on the big screen as Maureen’s love interest, she reprised her role in the final Broadway cast in 2008 and in 2010 for the Hollywood Bowl. And with all due respect to Fredi Walker Browne, I always pictured Joanne more like Tracie, which is why I think she’s the perfect person to play opposite a young firecracker like Maureen. True story: I met Tracie Thoms after the Broadway show and told her we had the same name. She feigned amusement. I hung my head in shame and my friend took this super zoomed in pic of us:

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lolololol

Leslie Odom Jr. as Benjamin “Benny” Coffin III

Like his Hamilton co-star Renee, Leslie also had a role in Rent prior to heading off to duel A. Ham, in fact, Rent was his Broadway debut. He grew up singing in church and musicals weren’t even in vocabulary until Rent. He graduated from high school and had spent the summer auditioning when he got the called to play Paul in the ensemble. He was 17. Now at 34, I’m pretty sure he can pull off a pretty convincing “villain” in Benny. I think he’s had some practice.

Ensemble

  • Michael McElroy as Mr. Jefferson / Pastor

As previously mentioned, Michael was the last person to play Collins on Broadway and I was :thisclose: to choosing him for Collins, but bumped him in favor of my boy Jesse instead. Again, his chemistry with Justin was infectioous and his voice is so so dreamy.

  • Gwen Stewart as Mrs. Jefferson / Woman with bags / “Seasons of Love” soloist

Also as previously mentioned, Gwen was in the OBC, so why not ruin a good thing?

  • Wayne Wilcox as Gordon / The Man / Mr. Grey

Wayne played Gordon in the movie but you know why he looks familiar to you? Because he played Marty, Rory’s sometimes naked, unrequited love interested from Gilmore Girls.

  • Telly Leung as Paul

Telly was in the final Broadway cast in the ensemble and also played Angel in the Hollywood Bowl cast and he is just delightful.

  • Emma Hunton as Alexi Darling / Mrs. Davis

Emma played Maureen in the 2011 Off-Broadway revival, and you obviously have to have an impressive set of pipes for that role. She’s also been in Spring Awakening, Next to Normal and in the little role Elphaba in the Wicked tour.

  • Aaron Lohr Steve / Squeegee man / Waiter

Aaron played the same role, and in a seat next to Wayne Wilcox in the movie, and again, if he looks familiar to you, you’re a child of the ’90s because he was Mush in Newsies and in D2 and D3: The Mighty Ducks as Dean Portman.

  • Eden Espinosa as Mrs. Cohen

Eden took on the role of Maureen in the final Broadway cast with some others mentioned above. And it seems to be some kind of trend because like Emma and Idina – she also is best known for playing Elphie both on Broadway and on tour for Wicked.

I Should Tell You: Things From Rent I Didn’t Understand As A Tween

Welcome to EVERYTHING IS RENT Week – a celebration of the 20th anniversary of one of our favorite musicals, and a beloved show by millions around the world. We’re kicking it off with confessions, of sorts. Let’s back it up a bit. Rent opened on Broadway on April 29th, 1996. We were 9 and 10 years old at the time. Rent mania was at its peak in the years following, and since we’re both cut from the same musical theatre/Patti LuPone cloth, we became fans of the show in our tween/teen years.

And if you’ve seen Rent or are familiar with the music, you know it would probably be rated M for Mature Audiences, or at least get a TV-14 rating. Naturally, there were some plot points, lyrics, and insights we didn’t get at the time, but now as adults (and older than most of the main characters in the show), we obviously have a different perspective on life and understand Rent much, much better than before. Here are some of the light bulb moments we’ve had in the past 20 or so years, and hopefully we’re not the only ones who were a little late to the game. Get at us, fellow millennials!

Everything about Contact

T: I believe I was 13 when I saw Rent for the first time (full disclosure, I’ve seen it 8 times in total), and true story – I went with my church youth group. I didn’t go to a super progressive church, however I did go to a United Church of Christ, which used rainbows in all their logos for a while because they were pro-equality and stuff. Anyways, it was a group outing sans parents, and it was a majority of my friends and like two of our cool youth group leaders. However, when it came time for Contact, a scene which simulates sex, I was uncomfy to the max. I looked down at my program, attempted to stare at other non-condom looking pieces on the stage, but I mostly just blocked it out of my first Rent experience. I even skipped over the song when I listened to the soundtrack (I know, #prude). It took me a while before I could listen to it for what it actually was, and why it held importance to the story as a whole. Stay safe out there, kids.

M: Oh, I skipped over Contact EVERY TIME. Probably still would. We played a lot of cast albums around my house when I was a kid, and I think it was an unspoken understanding that we didn’t listen to that one. But am I wrong in thinking that the staging was kind of weird, and so was the song and, awkward tween moments aside, it’s the least catchy number on the OBC album? My inner Catholic School 11-year-old suspects that I am not.

Mimi was a stripper

T: So this probably seems obvious to most people, but Mimi Marquez (Daphne Rubin-Vega) was a stripper. For some reason, I thought she was just a straight up prostitute/hooker/lady of the night. Maybe it was the provocative clothes and the fact she was on the hunt for her dropped baggie of heroin in Light My Candle? IDK. I mean it doesn’t even really make sense, seeing as how I knew all the lyrics by heart:

Do you go to the Cat Scratch Club?
That’s where I work, I dance
Yes!
They used to tie you up
It’s a living
I didn’t recognize you without the handcuffs

I also thought he meant she got arrested a lot – because she was a prostitute.

HOLD UP WAS LIGHT MY CANDLE ALSO MIMI TRYING TO GET A LIGHT SO SHE COULD HEAT UP HER HEROIN???? HONESTLY I’M HAVING AN A-HA MOMENT RIGHT NOW IS THIS REAL CAN SOMEONE CONFIRM THIS? THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATIOn

M: I grew up next to one drug house and across the street from another, so yeah, that part wasn’t lost on me. (This is where our urban vs suburban upbringing really shines. In our musical theater analysis. Because whether from the streets or the culs de sac, we’re both mostly theater nerds.)

All About Akita

T:  I have a tendency to listen more to music and composition over lyrics a lot of times, which I personally find annoying. So when I first saw Today 4 U being performed, all I could focus on was this guy dancing in heels way better than I ever could. Listening back to it, I always thought it was just a fun song to dance to. But then I got woke and paid attention to the lyrics and it was an eye-opening moment to realize Angel had killed a dog for money.

A few things about this:

  • A rando woman (imagine Jacqueline Vorhees on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S1) rolls up to Angel in her limo and is all, ‘Dahling, be a dear, kill my neighbor’s dog for me because it’s too yippy and loud. But kill it using your talent as a plastic tub drummer, you know how you make a living. kthxbyeee’.
  • How would you agree to do this?? You’re broke and offered $1,000 yeah ok that makes sense.
  • But then you tell this story with glee to people you’ve just met?
  • Again, Jacqueline Vorhees wannabe was certain his drumming would make the dog kill itself: “I believe if you play nonstop that pup/Will breathe its very last high strung breath/I’m certain that cur will bark itself to death”
  • And then it did by jumping out the window of an apartment building.
  • Didn’t realize the phrase “Today for you, tomorrow for me” basically meant to pay it forward, and someone will help you when you need it the most.

Seasons of Love

T: By the end of 8th grade, I was fully obsessed with Rent. So much so that I managed to convince our music teacher to let us sing Seasons of Love at graduation. I consider this one of my greatest accomplishments, despite the fact it touches upon death. And it’s from a musical which features sexy, drugs, and death from AIDS. And I don’t think I fully realized that at the time. I don’t think my 60ish other classmates did either. You’re welcome class of 2000 from my Catholic middle school.

*PS: Please note pre-Hamilton Renee Elise Goldsberry in the video above, and also note the tears that will project from your eyeballs.

Learning La Vie Boheme

T: When I first listened to the soundtrack, I didn’t get about 80% of the references in La Vie Boheme. I could sing the entire thing back to you but there were so many pop culture references in the song that Amy Sherman-Palladino would be left exhausted. But, like ASP’s work, I had to look up and research all the words and names I didn’t recognize and TBH, Rent is the reason why I know who people like Akira Kurosawa or Vaclav Havel are. Art is educational, y’all.

PS: Still reeling from my Light My Candle revelation, TBH.

M: See, there was no tumblr in 1996, so young people had to list the stuff they were into in song, instead.

Nobody Pays Their Rent

M: I rewatched Rent this past Christmas, after the unexpected death of a too-young family member a week before. I fast-forwarded through all of the parts about, y’know, death and dying. HEY. Did you know when you take out the AIDS and tragedy, Rent is just a piece about financial irresponsibility????

When I was 9-14 years old, I was very “YES. You ride that bike midday past the 3-piece suits. Follow your heart. Follow your ART.” And at 29, these people annoy me. Get a job – it doesn’t need to be a traditional one, but thief and grifter aren’t jobs – and pay your rent. And stop being shitty to your middle class parents who probably sacrificed their dreams so you could squat in a loft avoiding their calls.

Bad Tippers At The Life Cafe

M: In real life, just about everyone I know who is, or once was, struggling to make ends meet is also a very good tipper. Running out on your bill? Way to stick it to the artsy bohemian cafe and the waiter who makes less than minimum wage because you’re supposed to tip him. I guess it just bothers me because they’re not even screwing over “the man.”

One Song Glory > Your Eyes

M: Roger’s song about writing a song: so good. The actual song Roger writes: so very, very cheesy. Is the takeaway that Roger isn’t a very good songwriter? Or is the rhyming dictionary entry for “eyes” set to music actually a great song, and I just don’t realize it?

Falling Quickly

M: In sixth grade, it didn’t occur to me that Jack and Rose’s epic romance was actually a few days of pre-dating infatuation. At the same age, I also missed that the whole first act of Rent is just Christmas, pretty much. Which means that Angel and Collins go from zero to I’ll Cover you real, real fast. Of course there’s more immediacy when best cast scenario you’re about to get evicted and worse case scenario, you have AIDS, but for some reason I thought everyone knew each other longer.

 

Cheers Chats #4: Homicidal Ham

Annddd we’re back. And in season two, no less! We’ve been going through some classic episodes of Cheers since the beginning of this year (you can find the rest here) and we’ve moved on to season two, in which Sam and Diane are finally together and the rest of the crew has to deal with it. This particular episode has a storyline that seemingly comes out of nowhere, but provides for quite an entertaining show. Here we go with Homicidal Ham!

Episode 2.04: Homicidal Ham

Originally aired: October 27, 1983

Netflix synopsis: Against Sam’s better judgement, Diane tries to help her former homicidal blind date, Andy, become an actor.

T: No matter how many times I read the episode title, I still picture a honeyglazed ham holding a knife. I’m sure this says something about my pscyhe.

M: I’ve been staring at the title in our post queue for weeks, and every single time I read Cheers Chats #4: Homicidal Ham as “Homicidal 4 Ham,” which I imagine would be a Hunger Games-y Hamilton lotto that a lot of people would be into.

Previously, on Cheers

(Brief synopsis of what happened prior to this episode)

T: Carla gave birth to her baby in the second episode, but instead of showing up as Carla, Rhea Perlman pulls a Tatiana Maslany and plays Carla’s sestra who seems like an uptight gal and totally opposite from her sibling. It was a fun ep. Also, Rhea Perlman was pregnant IRL in 1989, but I think by the time they shot season 2, she had her daughter already, so I think she’s wearing a fake belly for the first episode?

M: Also was the sister even the same one that Carla said “gets everything” because she was a cosmetologist and like 5’1?

One Hit Wonders

(Characters we don’t expect to be seeing again)

In full disclosure, this entire episode is based on a character I don’t think we’re ever going to see again. But who knows.

T: The ex-convict Sam paid to date Diane shows up at Cheers. He allegedly murdered a waitress? How is he an “ex-convict” if he murdered someone? Unless it’s just hearsay on the streets of Boston.

M: Wait, you’re right! If his conviction is on unsexy tax stuff or whatever, that doesn’t make him a waitress-murderer.

M: Maybe the world has changed a lot since the early 80s (OK, the world has changed a lot since 2 weeks ago and I need like 3 memes explained to me), but this plotline would maybe never fly now? Surely some sort of group would launch some kind of Twitter thing?

T: Yeah, this would definitely not go over well in 2016. Anti-gun groups, Pro-pig groups, Actors Equity Association…

So What Had Happened Was…

(Basic recap of the episode’s main plot)

T: Holy shit Andy is STILL crazy and pulls out a gun because he’s holding up this entire bar. This is v jarring to me, as I don’t expect a gun-wielding nutjob to be walking into America’s Favorite Bar™. Is this going to be an Orange is the New Black/Making a Murderer type of life lesson in this episode? This show keeps surprising me.

Photo Apr 16, 12 53 15 AM

M: Yeah, definitely wouldn’t happen now, unless it was a Very Special Gun Episode like that Family Matters one where everyone turned in their guns. I feel like in the 80s a rando pulling a gun in a bar was still sort of a wacky tv plot, and from the sunny shores of 2016 we’re nodding along like ‘yeah, that IS a thing that sometimes happens in our public spaces. As you were, Cheers.”

T: He def wants to get caught because he hates life in the real world and has no skills wants to go back to prison. His dream is to become an actor. In fact, he sounds like an actor, which makes sense because this show isn’t real and he’s legit an actor. Diane agrees to help him become an actor by running lines with him, and sets him up with a potential job by having him audition for Fake James Lipton.

“Prison is my home.” Andy, who I’ve deemed Crazy Andy.

M: Doesn’t Crazy Andy have a creepy face? He has beady Ted Cruz eyes and emotes like a community theater actor.

T: Diane is friends with “America’s foremost drama coach” because of course she is. This dude has “contacts with every theater on the Cape.” As someone who worked at a theater in Boston, I am offended she’s not looking for a job for Crazy Andy within Boston proper.

M: I think maybe she’s trying to get him into summer stock. Anyway, I’m going to be a lot of not fun for a moment, but I left my last fuck behind in around 2013 and I don’t have any left to give.

IT IS NOT DIANE’S JOB TO SAVE CRAZY ANDY AND IT IS NOT ANY OF THE DIANES JOBS TO SAVE ANY OF THE CRAZY ANDYS OF THE WORLD.

I’m’a send Diane a copy of The Gift Of Fear from the future, and the writers a manual on how to write believable female characters who would have made it to their 30s (?) without getting serial killed, also from the future.

Okay we can have fun now.

T: 

T: Diane’s mission to save Crazy Andy has turned into her being his acting sensei and she’s a) taking advantage of boyfriend Sam being her boss and just taking a break whenever and b) forgetting that 5 minutes ago she thought he was an insane killer and now she’s offering to go out alone with him to help him with scene work.

M: Diane = a less murderous Alison Hendrix, sometimes. Of course she loves amateur theatre.

T: Plot Twist – After spending time together running the Othello scene, Crazy Andy thinks Diane is into him romantically. He says I love you to her and she says it back, but clearly not in the same way he means it. Ruh roh.

M: Didn’t this happen in a Full House episode? Or some kind of 80s-90s family sitcom.

T: Or nearly all 80s-90s sitcoms.

T: So when Crazy Andy walks out in his Shakespearean garb and sees Diane kissing Sam, he has CRAZY EYES.

T: He’s using his anger towards Diane for the scene and surprise, surprise, his lines involve love, jealousy, and murder. I know it’s not going to happen but, sincerely concerned Crazy Andy is going to actually kill Diane during this scene and everyone’s going to think he’s just a really good actor. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t kill her.

Shut Up, Diane

(We just have a feeling we’re going to be saying Shut Up, Diane at our screens KIND OF A LOT.)

T: “He stands here as an embodiment of the failure of our penal system. This man doesn’t belong in prison. We, mostly I, can save this man’s life.” In regard to this quote, I actually don’t want Diane to shut up because she’s spitting the truth but stays humble at the same time. 

M: Okay. I actually really hated what they did with Diane this episode. Someone waving a gun around for attention – even unloaded – may not need prison, but they probably need more help than Diane DeWitt-Bukater. Sam called the police and then Diane had him call the police back and tell them not to come which a) isn’t a thing police do; and b) is probably preventing a sorely needed mental hygiene hold.

“One murder does not a murderer make.” Diane? Shut up.

Little Ditty About Sam & Diane

T: Diane secretly carved her and Sam’s initials into the actual bar wood, because apparently she’s a 13 year old girl who likes to deface property. (ugh I’m old)

“If you want romantic, we should have our buns tattooed.” Sam, who is a reasonable adult and is annoyed Diane carved into his bar.

M: Which also doesn’t even feel like a Diane thing? Diane would calligraphy their names with an 18th century replica quill on recycled parchment, if anything.

The Luke Danes of 1980s Boston

(In which we gush over dreamy yet often grumpy bartender Sam Malone)

T: CA assures Sam his murder was a “terrible moment of temporary insanity”, and that he doesn’t hear the voices in his head anymore. SAM MALONE. DO NOT LET YOUR WOMAN GO TO A SECOND LOCATION WITH THIS MAN.

M: Sam is surprisingly cavalier about this Crazy Andy’s waitress-killing predilections. But since he’s Sam Malone, Dream Man I’m just going to focus on how he lets Diane live her life (stupidly) the way she wants to (which is like an idiot).

T: Sam apologizes for thinking Crazy Andy was still crazy – which is a sure sign he’s still right about this in the sitcom world. (otp)

T: “Yeah, sure she’s just gagging, Coach” SAM. LISTEN TO COACH. YOU ARE WATCHING YOUR GIRLFRIEND GET STRANGLED BY A MURDERER DRESSED IN ELIZABETHAN CLOTHING IN YOUR BAR RN.

Carla’s My Boo

T: After Crazy Andy pulls out his gun, Carla makes a run for it and is a freaking bad ass by grabbing his arms, and Sam takes the gun away while Coach takes the money back Crazy Andy attempted to steal. Beavis and Butt-Head (Norm and Cliff) take action 5 seconds later. Diane is…. who cares.

M: Carla’s first suggestion was that Diane run around flapping her arms to draw his fire. I feel you, boo boo.

T: During Crazy Andy and Diane’s “audition” in the bar, Carla sits in the front row and asks, “What time’s the second show?” with sandwich in hand.

M: Diane’s background work in this scene was the very definition of ‘giving me life.’

LLOL

(Literal Laugh Loud Loud moments from the episode)

When CA holds up his gun, these fools are *whispering* and trying to come with a plan to take Crazy Andy over, but they’re speaking at full volume.

M: I mostly LLOLed here because it felt like this was neither the first or the last time Carla has had someone waving a gun around at her.

T: This is brilliant- the barflies are deeply engrossed in the boxing match on TV and when it goes to commercial, Sam has already set up a conveyor belt of sorts for full glasses of beer. This is NOT what the real Cheers does. Or any bar does, for that matter. Norm goes up like four times.


T: Diane realizes she actually might die in a sec and tries to put off the scene, and when Sam tries to calm her down, she yells, “DON’T TOUCH ME, I BARELY KNOW YOU” as to not anger Crazy Andy more and oh my GOD I just think Shelley Long’s delivery is so perfect I am laughing so hard and had to watch it multiple times.

M: I rewound it too! To be clear, I sometimes don’t like how Diane is written, but Shelley Long is one of the best things to happen to this show or any show. She was killing it like Crazy Andy this whole ep. Too soon?

T: Cliff and Norm holding down CA after he chokes Diane is solid gold.

Are you going to be OK? – Sam

I’m having a little trouble breathing. – Diane

No, I meant for tonight. – Sam

OH MY GOD I LEGIT LOLED hahahaha you crazy horny kids

Say It Again, Sam

(Memorable lines from the episode. Not exclusively from Sam Malone.)

T: Carla comes back from maternity leave in this episode, and she’s pretending to still be pregnant because she says she’ll get better tips this way.

Coach is not advocating this, and says to Sam, “Maybe you should tell her to get rid of it.” To which Sam replies, “I can’t coach, she’s Catholic.” Abortion jokes, what a riot!

M: When Crazy Andy is choking her, Diane says “help, he’s trying to kill me” which Coach calls “the only line of Shakespeare I’ve ever understood.”

T: Coach, still problematic, legit tells Crazy Andy to not call him by his real name Ernie and says, “Please, call me Coach”, as he takes the money out of the register. You are being held hostage have some emotion.

“You know what they say, “Use a gun, go to Cape Cod.’” – Sam, basically ripping off motivational signs you find at Michaels

Cheers Queries

T: Why are they doing CA’s acting audition in the bar??

M: And where did they got these medieval costumes? I could see Diane going to Ren Faires sometimes TBH.

T: Is this episode titled Homicidal “Ham” because Crazy Andy is a first-class over actor??

M: Crazy Andy seems relatively young, so exactly how long was he in prison for killing that waitress?

T: Does this episode remind anyone else of the Saved by the Bell ep where they do Snow White and the Seven Dorks, and Kelly and Slater essentially sabotage the show because they think Zack and Jessie have a thing for each other after catching them kissing (as practice for the show)?

M: The hip-hop musical has come so far.

Barfly Fashion

Diane’s outfit looks more modern than usual?

Her hair wings also seem to be going a different way than they used to.

Crazy Andy in a 12 year old hardy boy’s outfit

Everyone in this picture

  • Diane in her RenFaire dress
  • The acting coach and his cane
  • Crazy Andy’s little league uniform

Sam looks exceptionally tall in these pants.

When I first saw it I thought “Sam should wear more blue,” so there’s a note for wardrobe, I guess.

Next Up: We are basing our watch list off of AV Club’s 10 Episodes That Show How Cheers Stayed Great For 11 Seasons. We’re going chronologically, so stop by next month when we’ll discuss Season two, episode 17, Fortune and Men’s Weight.

Public Restroom Peeves (That Aren’t Trans* People)

Did you know that some people are very, very angry about having to share public restrooms with trans* people? It’s an American tradition to get ticked off about things that don’t matter, but I’m still kind of baffled. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of legitimate gripes to hold about public restrooms – but trans* people using them isn’t on the list.

But are we just complaining about public restrooms now ? Because yeah, I do have some petty complaints:

  • When a motion activated faucet won’t go off when I wave my hands under it. AM I A GHOST? In these moments, I think maybe.
  • Bar soap. Yes, I know that people used bar soap for centuries but I’m pretty sure they all got cholera.
  • When a person has a phone conversation when they’re on the toilet. Who are they talking to? Guaranteed, whoever it is knows what you’re doing. Who honestly thinks “you know what would perk this pee sesh right up? Some chit-chat with the receptionist setting up my dog’s bordetella vaccine.” [Actual convo I heard, yes.]
  • Even worse: when you walk in, someone is talking on the phone, and they seem to expect YOU to leave. Not only will it stay, I will flush the toilet twice so the person on the other line knows what you’ve done. It’s the lavatory, not Sharon’s Phone Lounge.
  • A sign on the door telling me not to flush sanitary products. I just sort of feel like it’s 2016 and we should have worked this out by now. And don’t pretend that you know what we’re supposed to do with those tiny paper bags, either. Do I leave it in the metal box or carry it out to the garbage can?
  • Anyone who wants to talk to me while I’m in a stall. That’s weird. You’re being weird.
  • That moment when you use a turbo hand-dryer and your skin peels back from your bones and tendons, and you realize we are all but skeletons and suddenly you’re faced with a real existential moment at an I-90 thruway stop.
  • I know it’s cliche to say the long line at the ladies’ room, but good Christ: the long line at the ladies’ room. It’s been proven that anatomically, it takes women longer to use the bathroom. Plus you gotta figure that it’s a sit-down occasion every time, whereas probably 80-90% of the time biological men are standing up with their pants on. Plus there are more women assisting and accompanying small children or babies than men. So how about we make up for our 12% pay deficit with like… 12% more bathroom stalls?
  • While we’re at it, I’ve heard men complain about no changing tables in the men’s room so that should also be addressed.
  • And generally, when there are no changing tables in locations where people obviously bring children. I had to change my nephew standing up in a public park restroom, which he promptly reported to his parents. I also had him wear an apron that day while we were baking, and he told his parents that “Aunt Molly put a dress on me!” We have fun.
  • No mirror above the sink.
  • Non-flushers. I will never understand non-flushers as long as I live. If it’s an automatic toilet, and it doesn’t go off, push the damn button. In one stall at work, someone had to put up a sign telling users to make sure the toilet is flushed before they leave. And I work in legal publishing, not preschool.
  • Pee splatterers. Look, I’ve been known to do a hover move, too. Do I count it as part of my workout? Yeah, maybe sometimes. But do I sway to and fro splattering pee over the whole seat? No, because I’m a decent person. And if I DID get pee everywhere, I sure as hell would TP it up a bit.
  • Not realizing the stall is out of toilet paper until it’s too late.
  • Attendants, who are probably all lovely people, because they combine my fear of not tipping enough with my distaste for paying for things I can do on my own.
  • Any time the sign on the door tries to be cute instead of just telling me who’s supposed to go in there. In my dad’s Irish club, the doors say Fir and Mna and no, I do not speak Gaelic.  I believe I decided that Mna might be man since it’s an anagram, which was not the case because that’s not how languages work. And in Spain, I once went into a restroom where there was no writing on the door, just a photograph of a child playing baseball. I thought it was a girl. I was wrong.
  • Anyone who tries to bust open a door without doing the barest due diligence to find out if someone’s in there. I LOVE those doors that have that red light/green light thing, sort of like airplane bathrooms.
  • When basically the entire restroom is shut down for cleaning (with cones, caution tape and hurdles) and there’s nary a cleaning person in sight. I’m not saying that it’s always like this at Penn Station, I’m just saying I’ve encountered this every time I’ve had to use a bathroom at Penn Station.

Let’s All Speculate About Lemonade

Beyonce, the Queen of wig snatching, revealed last weekend that she’s releasing something called Lemonade on HBO this coming Saturday.

Beyonce being Beyonce, she’s revealed little to no details besides subconsciously telling us to quit all our plans to watch whatever this is on Saturday. At this point, we shouldn’t be surprised by her unexpected moves. From the iconic pregnancy reveal at the 2011 VMAs to the “Where were you when Beyonce dropped her album in December 2013?” phenomenon to randomly releasing Formation earlier this year, the Queen has made pulling a “Beyonce” a verb.

In fact, this time around, she’s been trolling us for months. MONTHS. Last year, she posted a string of Instagram photos of her with lemons and/or lemonade, but of course with no explanation. No one questioned it at the time because it is BEYONCE SMELLING A FRESH FRUIT WHO ARE WE PLEBEIANS TO QUESTION HER ACTIONS?

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

So while we have three more days until we find out exactly what Lemonade is, let’s speculate based on logical clues (and some not so logical) as to what it could possibly be, because let’s be honest, we have nothing better to do until then.

A new song

This seems like the most reasonable assumption, no? Or rather the most non-disappointing expectation? If she hit us with the music video for her new song Lemonade, we would be fine with it, but just leave us wanting more.

A new album

There have been rumors swirling over the past few weeks that Beyonce is releasing another surprise album later this year, this time around with some special guests, including Adele. Since she’s kicking off her Formation world tour (which she also unexpectedly announced after her Super Bowl cameo this year) next week, a full new album would be the reason she’s going on tour – not like she needs a reason.  But that’s cutting it close for all those Bey Hive members in Miami. An album on Saturday, concert on Wednesday? Hope everyone has a good memory because you’ll need to learn those lyrics real quick.

A new visual album / film

This is my true, honest guess for what her Lemonade HBO special is. It’ll be like all the music videos from Beyonce (2013) but on the TV. In trailer for Lemonade, she’s wearing the same outfit/has the same look as her Formation video, so it could just be a continuation of that theme in the new special.

The name of her next baby

… Because she’s pregnant again. She’s not, BUT what if she was and the HBO special is 30 minutes long and a sonogram video of her unborn child Lemonade (gender TBD).

A new restaurant venture

Bey is becoming a franchise owner of Lemonade, a chain of restaurants in Los Angeles that’s basically healthy cafeteria-style food. They have stuff like vegan Red Quinoa & Fuji Apples with Arugula, Toasted Sunflower Seeds,& Pistachio Vinaigrette or Roasted Chicken with Pomegranate Tzatziki or their famous truffle Mac and Cheese. Of course they have a million kinds of lemonade including Blood Orange and Coconut Apple and maybe even a new flavor flav – BLUEIvyBERRY and HoneyBEY??

A new lemonade cleanse partnership

She’s the new spokesperson for a lemonade cleanse. Ok, on the real, I came up with that idea before I each started searching “Beyonce juice cleanse”, but apparently it’s a thing and she reportedly used this lemon detox diet to lose 20 pounds. I do not suggest doing this. I do suggest Beyonce making a legit juice cleanse that I will regettingly partake in.

Mexican Lemonade

IDEK IT COULD LIT’RALLY BE ANYTHING

Blue Ivy’s got a lemonade stand

She’s Periscope-ing Blue Ivy’s lemonade stand for an entire hour. Her lemonade stand is outside their Bev Hills house and Jay’s just paid a bunch of people to drive by and buy the drinks she’s peddling.

It’s a secret Destiny’s Child project

In the Lemonade teaser, Bey is heard saying,”The past and the present merge to meet us here.” Using that as a hint, one can guess her past (DC3) is meeting the present (HBO) with a special Destiny’s Child project. And by project I don’t mean a new one, I mean it’s a re-airing of Destiny’s Child Live in Atlanta from 2006.

It’s a secret Bey/Jay project

She also says in the clip, “You are the love my life.” Gathering from this line, she and Jay will renew their vows. However, the catch is that only Tidal subscribers can see the actual ceremony. The rest of us HBO folks will have to settle for seeing people sit in their seats and 10 minutes of the reception. For everyone without HBO, you can find all of it in its entirety on that one (illegal) streaming website with a million pop-up ads. Worth it.

A testimonial movie about being vegan

Facts:

“I’ve been drinking, watermelon” Drunk In Love, 2013.

“I can’t wait ’til I get home so you can tear that cherry out
Turn that cherry out, turn that cherry out” Blow, 2013.

“He like to call me peaches when we get this nasty” Partition, 2013.

Lemonade, 2016.

THIS IS A PLOY TO MAKE US ALL TURN VEGAN.

Just Bey

Literally just Bey sipping on lemonade for an hour. And we’d still watch.

Questions, Comments and Concerns: The Wolfpack

The Wolfpack is a documentary about the Angulo brothers, 6 teenage(-ish) boys kept almost entirely confined to their apartment by their father, Oscar. The boys watched thousands of movies, became obsessed with film, and even recreated favorite films at home: transcribing scripts, assigning roles, and building props by hand. On one of their early forays into the streets of New York City they met filmmaker Crystal Moselle, who was intrigued by their matching long hair and dark suits, looking like the cast of Reservoir Dogs. A friendship began based on their mutual love of film, and eventually Moselle began a documentary about the Angulo brothers’ lives: The Wolfpack.

Unlike most of our Comments, Questions and Concerns post, this is actually a GOOD movie. It’s just that there’s so much going on here that we do have a few questions, comments and concerns about this most unusual family.

Comment: This is a documentary with no narration, very few talking heads, and no name cards.

So if you didn’t see the 20/20 special on the family ( or any of the myriad articles about these brothers, you’ll be figuring out what’s going on as the doc progresses. But other than some trouble keeping the boys’ names straight, you’ll be just fine.

Comment: Someone in this family is a prop master in the making.

Link: The Wolfpack brothers show us how to reenact our favorite films.

In their film recreations, the Angulos create their own props and some of them are really impressive, especially when you remember they were literally using what they had around the house.

Question: Did anyone else transcribe films and TV in their youth?

I think I remember rewinding my VHS tapes to take down dialogue from shows and movies I really liked in the pre-internet era, so while these kids do have some things in common with those of us who had more typical childhoods.

Comment: Understatement of the year: “If I didn’t have movies, my life would be pretty boring.”

It’s a phrase a lot of us can at least somewhat relate to (feel free to substitute movies with TV, or music, or theater), but coming from a teen whose only connection with the outside world was through movies, it’s on a whole other level.

Concern: What would it be like to be Vishnu?

First of all, Vishnu is the only girl in this family. Second, she’s described as special and in her own world, and was reported to have some sort of developmental disability. How did she get the services she need when her family rarely left their apartment? (NB: This isn’t answered, and for good reason: Vishnu isn’t really a subject of The Wolfpack. That’s a good choice because if she does have a developmental disability it would be harder to obtain her knowing consent, and anyway none of it is our business. However, I imagine that her life is probably every bit as fascinating as her brothers’.)

Concern: How does this HAPPEN?

One boy wonders how his parents fell in love in the first place. While more extreme than most of us, this is pretty relatable – when your parents have been together forever, it’s hard to picture them as the young people who first met each other.

In this case, the boys’ Midwestern-raised hippie mom, Susanne, met their father Oscar in South America. They moved to New York. Susanne was under Oscar’s control and Oscar began to shun the outside world, allowing the children to leave the apartment – closely supervised – only about once a year, if that. I understand, on a level, how overwhelming NY would be to a man from a less-populated area, especially when it’s plausible that he has some issues with paranoia and narcissism.

As for their mother,the boys mention Oscar hitting her sometimes, but there wouldn’t even need to be much or any physical violence with this level of psychological control. It’s almost like when you hear about cult members who have realized the leader isn’t what he promised to be, but it’s too late to leave.

Comment: THAT HALLOWEEN SCENE WAS SPOOKY AS HELL THO

The brothers film children trick or treating outside their window. Meanwhile in the apartment, they record themselves in costumes lighting hay on fire and doing a spooky circle dance to This Is Halloween. It was so eerie I almost had to fast forward. If you want evidence that some boys in the group are born filmmakers, look no further. With no budget or script , they sure did evoke Halloween terror.

Question: What would happen if we all talked to people who seem interesting?

The filmmaker (Crystal Moselle) saw this pack of long-haired, suit-wearing brothers on the street. Like most of us, she wondered what on earth their story was. Unlike most of us, she went up to them and asked. What would I find out if I started talking to the characters I see on the street?

(That’s gonna have to remain a mystery. Riding public transit to and from work, I have enough unwanted interactions with strangers without seeking them out.)

Concern: The level of control Oscar had is staggering, and I thought I’d heard everything.

Only Oscar had the keys to the apartment. If he told the boys to stay in one room, they weren’t allowed to leave. He kept seven children so stifled that many neighbors didn’t even know they existed.

Comment: My heart was in my throat during “the escape.”

Mukunda, then 15,  sneaked out of the apartment wearing a Michael Myers mask. He seemed “off” (as a teen in a horror movie mask would) and eventually, concerned strangers called the police. Mukunda was admitted to the psych ward, which he considers a positive experience as he was finally able to interact with non-family members. THEN, upon returning home, he told his father “I refuse to talk to you, I refuse to take your orders, we are no longer father and son anymore.” That has to be one of the bravest things I’ve heard in my life.

From that point on, the spell was broken and the brothers began to leave the apartment.

Question: Should Child Protective Services have intervened?

And in fact, what are the bounds of legality here? I say this as someone who concentrated in family law in a New York state law school, but this is such a gray area. There’s a push and pull between allowing parents the freedom to raise their children, but to intervene if the child’s health and safety are in peril. Is isolating the children at home a form of abuse or neglect?

Concern: YIKES at one of the boys thinking their mother should still homeschool them.

There’s nothing wrong with homeschooling if that’s what both the parents and kids want, and everyone’s getting a good education. The yikes comes because maybe a rule where nobody in this family says that another family member shouldn’t have to leave the apartment would be a good thing, moving forward. (To be fair, he doesn’t say she should never leave AT ALL, but that working outside the home wouldn’t be best when she is qualified to teach the brothers. Also he certainly has insight that we don’t into what Susanne actually wants to do in life.)

We’ll get to this later, but the best and most freeing thing for Susanne might be to move back to where there are open spaces, which she says she misses, particularly if as her son said, having to go out into New York to work would be too taxing on her.

Concern: The hair thing.

The boys have super-long hair, at least until some make the decision to cut it. Their father says it gives them power. Their mom has really short hair. Her decision or nah?

(If it is, and she’s chosen to look different from her family members, that’s pretty cool.)

Question: What would the real world seem like if all you knew was movies?
Comment: I would have loved to see more of the filmmaker’s interactions with the brothers.

I think leaving herself out of the film was a good choice, that’s just my own curiosity. It’s an interesting dynamic and like I said above, reaching out to these kids on the street isn’t something your average person would have done.

Concern: In old footage, Susanne looks at Oscar like Michelle looks at Jim-Bob.

I guess the concern would be that there are hundreds of Michelles looking at hundreds of Jim-Bobs like that.

Comment: Just want to make it clear I’m not blaming Susanne here.

Is there a chance she’s at fault for some of this? Sure, she could be, but I don’t have enough info here to say that. Susanne was very controlled by Oscar for a long time, and she’s obviously a thoughtful and intelligent person who really loves her kids (and even Oscar).

Concern: Oh no. Is Oscar comparing himself to Jesus now? Oh. no.

Comparing yourself to the Christ: almost always a bad sign unless it’s in the vein of “when the weather is warm, Jesus and I are both known to wear sandals” or “Jesus and I both have an Aunt Elizabeth.”

Comment: Sometimes Susanne’s accent really betrays her Midwestern roots (especially when talking with her mom) and I love it.

I also enjoy how very excited she was to reconnect with her family. This is why I love this documentary: I am so rooting for the boys and their mom. (I do feel for Oscar, on some level, and hope he finds some peace.)

Question: Did anyone else practically cheer seeing one of the boys getting a job on a set and interacting with coworkers like anybody else?

Guys. I’m just really into the triumph of the human spirit. They’re gonna make it after all. I’m sure of it.

Comment: ONE OF THEM MOVED OUT!

Jobs. Haircuts. Rock bands. Environmental protests. Girlfriends? I knew this was coming, but I’m amazed anyway.

And we start with the kids watching trick or treaters through their window, and end with them picking pumpkins and apples out in the world. Because at last, they live in it.

Concern: I’m very happy for everybody but if they do any more of this spooky Halloween shit I SWEAR TO GOD.

You’re very great at spooky masks and eerie sequences but I’m’a have to turn this off now.

Coachella Chows Down

OMG can you believe how crazy Coachella was this weekend? I’m so mad I didn’t see Kanye but I DID get a glimpse of Leo trying to pretend he wasn’t just whispering in Rihanna’s ear.

I can believe how crazy it was, mainly because I wasn’t there despite all those things above being true.

While a lot of Angelenos made the exodus out to Indio/Palm Springs over the weekend, I happily spent #NoChella at home blogging, finishing Fuller House and stalking the significant others of Gilmore Girls actors on social media. Which activity is better ? Who’s to say?! However, during my Instagram and Twitter stalking, I also found out that apparently there has been a reason for me to go to Coachella all along, and that reason is food.

I’m not actually sure if these top notch food stands have been at thing at Coachella for forever, but thanks to social media and the Internet, I know now. In my mind, Coachella is a sea of people on top of a mound of dirt in hot hot heat (not the band) and living on port-a-potties and mediocre pizza. Apparently only some of that is factual.

This year, the fest features 40 different vendors + pop-ups + three full-service restaurants. Suprisingly fancy, no? Basically, the Coachella food line-up is made up of a handful of the trendiest and most popular restaurants in Los Angeles that make the journey to the trendiest and most popular music festival in the U.S. and set up shop. If you’ve ever wanted to know what the food culture is like in LA, Coachella represents it well. First of all, you have a variety of different cuisines available to you that aren’t just funnel cakes and turkey legs. Second, a lot of those cuisines take traditional dishes and modernize them with another genre – e.g. Canadian Poutine with Indian Chicken Tikka Masala (see below) or comfort foods with a “California flare” – e.g. ice cream in a “milky bun” (see below).

However, the main requirement for cool food in LA is that it’s super Instagrammable because if no one posts pictures on Instagram of Coachella, does Coachella even exist? Here are just a few of the foods that took over Insta during Weekend 1, and prepare to feel FOMO for a festival based on food alone.

Ice Cream

Here’s said ice cream – a milky bun is a product of Afters Ice Cream, where they take the ice cream of your choice, add a topping, and put it inside a modified glazed donut. Then they put it through some kind of top secret iron which makes the bun warm but keeps the ice cream cold because it’s literal magic they’re making.

The #MilkyBun invades @coachella ! 📷: @dailyfoodfeed

A post shared by Afters Ice Cream 🍦 12pm-12am (@aftersicecream) on

 

And here we have regular ice cream, which seems less exciting than ice cream in a hot bun.

Vegan

Apparently vegan ramen is a thing, and it’s super popular

My favorite part about vegan foodstagrams is trying to figure out just how much of it looks truly edible

Korean

LA’s Koreatown is a hot spot for foods and late night entertainment, so it’s no surprise Korean BBQ and bibimbap made its way to Coachella Valley.

Live from Coachella 🌴🍜🎶detective @nicoloportunato will be sharing some of the best #eeeeeats #FOODETECTION

A post shared by The Food Detective (@the_food_detective) on

Burgs

Still don’t know why this bun is red, but given the amount of burger joints in SoCal, you have to stand out somehow.

Can't miss this at @coachella ! #gdbroburger | 📷: @goodeatzco

A post shared by Food Network – S6 TGFTR (@gdbroburger) on

Mexican

What is California without Mexican food? A pit of guacamole-less despair.

Poke

I feel like poke bowls are making their way from Hawaii to LA slowly but surely after seeing a whole lot of poke restaurants popping up. I ain’t mad about it.

Donuts

Gourmet donuts are huge in LA. These particular ones are vegan, because, duh.

You don't know how many people I had to push out of my way to find you little donut, but now you're mine. @donutfarmla raspberry donut let's go!

A post shared by DonutYouLikeMe-donuts & beyond (@donutyoulikeme) on

Fries

All the fries. All the toppings. All the time.

#Porkbelly fries & sriracha curry from @beerbelly_la ! 🍟😍 Coachella – Day 2.

A post shared by Eat🍔 Drink🍺 Rally💁🏻 (@eatdrinkrally) on

Hot Dogs

How you even eat this without feeling ridiculous in public, idk.

The full package 😏🌭 #sumodog #coachella

A post shared by Lesley (@misscutiefoodie) on

Sandwiches

Probably one of the most convenient foods at Coachella, you can grab one and go save a spot so you have a good view of Purity Ring later. Give me one of everything, please.

Colors of Coachella, thanks to @freerangela 🌈🐔#YUMDIARIES #chickengawds #coachella #coachellaeeeeeats

A post shared by Nadia & Emily #YUMDIARIES (@theyumdiaries) on

Step 1: get a chicken & waffle. Step 2: smother it in syrup. Step 3: DEVOUR. #coachellaeats 📷: @yumscore

A post shared by Official Coachella Eats 2017 (@coachellaeats) on

Bowls

From acai bowls to quinoa bowls, it’s like the best of West Hollywood in the desert.

thank you @superbafoodandbread at coachella for feeding me something my nutritionist would approve

A post shared by Connie Tsang (@ghengisconnie) on

Popsicles

Because it’s 90 degrees in the desert and you’re jumping around next to sweaty humans.

Dessert

Camping is a thing people do at Coachella, so obvs you gotta have gourmet s’mores.

Juice

Welcome to California, where you drink alcohol all day and go on a juice cleanse for the rest of the month.

refreshed, rehydrated 😁🌴💦

A post shared by A L I N D A (@thatfitfoodie) on