You may perhaps clutch the monitor when you read this. "Where is Mr. Jewel?" you'll cry. "What has Y-K-W done with my beloved?" You'll wonder what mad scientist has taken the civilized genius that is your good correspondent and replaced him with this driveling fool.
Well, my dear, think what you want, I am not mad, I am not injured, I am not a pod person. I saw Rent - this year's Pulitzer Prize recipient - and I am sorry that you cannot whiz into town for a look at the most important and worthy musical theatrical achievement New York has seen in YEARS!
Can I explain this? Hardly. Was Jonathan Larson a genius? We'll never know. All I can say is from the first raucous notes, to the last faux-optimistic ending, the piece swept me up in its arms and carried me to a happy and exciting place.
You don't believe this. Neither do I. I can give you a list of what is wrong with Rent. A long list. (I will spare you the bulk of the list!) It is too long, it is dramatically lumpy, it has false, shallow characters experiencing uninteresting angstŠ Who the hell cares? The sucker works! It works on sheer energy and on melody! Melody? Do you remember melody, dearest. Songs, tunes, things which work their way into your brain and make you remember them. Mr. Larson was positively profligate with his musical ideas. One good melody after another cascades into the audience and we all drink heartily at this all-too-rare vintage; the heady wine of memorable song. My dear, it was the first time I felt I was listening to the work of a YOUNG MAN since, I don't know, maybe since Company.
With my nods to all the old pros, Mr. Larson is the first composer in nearly thirty years who makes me feel young. What a gift to give us.
Maybe in two years this work will overpower me with its inadequacies. I am perfectly willing to admit that. Maybe I am affected by the sorrow that this work shall exist alone in Mr. Larson's catalogue. The death of such a talent at 36 is indeed a tragic thing. If that was the age at which we lost our American musical theatre's best writers we'd have no Frank Loesser, Jule Styne, Kurt Weill. If they'd died at thirty six we'd've lacked every Sondheim score after Anyone Can Whistle, there'd be no Candide or West Side Story, Lerner and Loewe would not exist. The first writer in more than a generation to show real promise (Mr. Finn is a talented freak) dies on the eve of getting it right. Too bad for all of us.
I have not acknowledged the cast. They are not experts. They are not especially polished. They know they are involved with a mission and they take that responsibility seriously. What they lack in training, they make up in commitment.
And so, my dear, come to the city. See Rent now. See a flawed, unfinished, underdeveloped work. See the first truly worthy addition musical theatre canon in ten years. Please come. The magic may not last forever.