I couldn’t even come up with a good title for this post. It’s just that simple. Aaron played Roger in another life (another day) and TBH he’s one of the best ones I’ve seen in Rent. Who would we pair him up with? Read on.
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.
Hey remember when Tveit was in Les Mis (the movie)? PS: Did you see this video of him singing a tune from Catch Me If You Can with Kerry Butler this week? It will give you feels.
We saw Les Mis and took notes during the movie, because we’ll do anything to become internet famous. Obvi there are spoilers ahead, but in our defense, this musical’s been out for 25 years.
T: The Overture is playing and I’m already fighting the urge to sing along.
M: Just me, or do the first chords of the overture sound like the beginning of Beauty and the Beast, another beloved musical set in 19th century France? I am now composing a mental mash up: “Little town, it’s a quiet village (At the end of the day you’re another day older), Every day like the one before (And that’s all you can say in the life of the poor).” Works pretty well.
T: A straggler walks up the stairs next to us wearing an ugly Christmas sweater (non-ironically); reminds me I’m in the suburbs where people actually do that.
M: Okay, SO funny Traci should mention that, because I made a mental note to ask her whether she’s missed Western NY fashions and coiffure. [My physical note, however, simply read “THIS SWEATER.”]
T: Wondering if Hugh Jackman’s gnarly beard is real. It looks like a grey Brillo pad.
M: Why does Valjean have an accent out of a 1950s western? This shit is getting rhotic
T: Note to self: Look up the ginge Foreman in the factory where Fantine works, looks famil.
T: Alright. I had my doubts about Princess Diaries when I saw the first trailer, but seeing her in I Dreamed a Dream is basically why she deserves all the awards. This also marks the first time I teared up.
M: Anne Hathaway is one of the most phenomenal ugly criers I’ve seen. I hope that is taken as the compliment that it is. Her crying deserves its own blog post. (T note: Don’t worry guys, it’s coming)
T: Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are on point as Madame and Monsieur Thenardier. Except Cohen’s accent is questionable, pretty sure I heard Borat sneaking in there.
M: I am just confused. Why is Sacha Baron Cohen being allowed to do what I assume is supposed to be a French accent? See, this is why most movies set in non-anglophone countries just make everyone sound vaguely British: consistency. And so accents like this don’t happen.
T: So here’s the thing with going into a movie-musical adaptation with knowledge of the music so well: you can’t help but go in comparing the new version to the original. In this case I’d say everyone made it their own… Except Russell Crowe. This was especially evident during Stars. His performance was mediocre at most, and felt flat the entire time. It was like a high school student singing in his chorus concert. This number is supposed to be the first breakout song for Javert, a song that expresses his desire to hunt down JVJ, but it felt like Russell was just trying to focus on hitting the notes. And everyone knows he’s a good actor, but it just did not show at all in the movie. If you want to see a real version of Stars, watch Phillip Quast.
M: I am getting so much secondhand vertigo from Javert walking on this ledge. I feel like I’m going to sympathy puke like I’m in third grade and the teacher has just brought out that vomit-muffling sawdust. Also I see what you’re doing here, Les Mis.
T: Fun fact: Nick Jonas of Selena Gomez’s ex-bf played Gavroche on Broadway when he was a little kid. He went on to play Marius in the west end production in 2011, where Samantha Barks, who plays Eponine in the movie, also played Eponine to Nicky’s Marius. They both were in the 25th anniversary concert production which I remember watching and felt second hand embarrassment for Nick J, even though I love him (no shame).
M: No wait. Just wait. The kids are all so Cockney that I think Cosette’s going to tell Thenardier “please sir, I want some more” and call JVJ “gov’nah.” What sort of Parisian United Nations is this supposed to take place in? Let’s make it easy: BBC accents for rich people, chav-speak for poor people.
T: AARON TVEIT!!!! I seriously forget every time that Aaron is in Les Mis as rev leader Enjorlas. To theater nerds, you know who he is. To everyone else, you may recognize him as Trip Archibald, Nate’s politician cousin that seduced Serena in Gossip Girl. Or as I know him, a smokeshow Broadway singer that I’m in love with.
M: This anachronistic hair is killing me! Who would have cut Eponine’s side bangs for her? That’s pretty high maintenance for someone who likely would have bathed about as often as she celebrated Christmas.
T: Can someone explain to me why Samantha Barks is so so tiny?! Corset probably? Or like that ancient Chinese foot banding thing but for her waist?
M: God Christ Jesus, Samantha Barks’s waist was achieved with CGI… Right? Mother of God there is no hope for the rest of us.
T: Can someone also explain to me why I found Hugh Jackman attractive while he was wearing his Seinfeld puffy shirt and lederhosen??
M: I have grown so old that I can’t sit one way for 20 minutes without my knees hurting. I bet this is super distracting to the people behind me. I mean I hope it is, this girl has kicked my seat back at least once a musical number.
M: My notes during On My Own read “Joey Potter.” I meant this. Holmes killed it. She made that song die.
T: Oh hey, remember that time when my favorite (least favorite) Taylor Swift was almost cast as Eponine? Really dodged a bullet with that one.
M: New blog post: Les Mis songs as written by Taylor Swift? “She wears hoop skirts, I wear corsets, She’s petit bourgeois, I’m just a street kid…”.
M: Are these ridiculously attractive young men representative of what Frenchmen look like? I don’t remember seeing so many handsome gents when I went there, but if someone can confirm I may have to go back.
M: I was cringing the second Gavroche began singing Little People. Don’t even start, lil buddy! It’s not going to go great.
T: Pretty sure I heard somebody snoring during Empty Chairs.
T: Eddie Redmayne tho. WTG.
T: Something I’ve never thought about before: why was it so easy for Cossette and Marius to fall in love after making googly eyes at each other and signing a duet through a cast iron fence? I’m available to do that with a suitor at any time.
M: Why is only Eponine’s face wet? Little fall of rain, indeed.
M: Alright, there it goes on Marius.
M: Dude, no. Javert, no. Get off the ledge. I’m getting a headache.
T: JVJ’s death scene (kind of) verbatim:
JVJ : I can die now. I’m over this.
Fantine: Yes, come hang out with me and all these boys from the rev.
Cossette : No, don’t die. You can’t die.
JVJ: Yes I can.
Cossette: No you can’t!
JVJ: Yes I can, woman! Watch me. PS: Here’s a letter I wrote about my life because I couldn’t tell you when I had the chance.
T: Total times I cried: 4. Sounds about right.
M: Cried less than I thought! Like twice-ish. Little tears. I thought I was going to go full-Hathaway.
T: In case you were wondering: ginge foreman was no one. I’m not always right about these things.
M: Just so you know, a lot of people have been googling “Samantha Barks waist” and now I’m oddly concerned that she’ll find out and get self-conscious. Girl, ya look good. I mean she’s probably doing fine, right? Yeah.