I debated on whether to write a review of Rent: Live since there’s so much conflama surrounding the actual live recording. As you probably already know, one of the leading actors broke his foot, causing Fox to tailspin to a bevy of bad decisions. “Solutions” such as showing the dress rehearsal instead of the live performance, allowing the live audience to see a much better performance than the one we at home were privy to watch, etc., made for a very frustrating viewing experience. Ultimately, it was also a sad one, too, since I’m sure the actors had much more to give live than what we saw in the dress rehearsal. We missed out on some great television.
I will say right now that I came into this Rent performance not being a fan of the story. I will say that after I know more about its creator, Jonathan Larson, I have much more respect for the musical as an artifact of pop culture and social history and as one of the first pieces of media in the ’90s to humanize LGBTQ people, especially those suffering from HIV/AIDS. I’m happy about the messages the musical represent. However, I’m kinda so-so on many of the characters, since some, like Joann, are posers. (I mean, she’s rich for goodness’ sake: she doesn’t need to squat).
HOWEVER, the one thing that made the night worth it was seeing Angel and Tom’s romance, played out by RuPaul’s Drag Race megastar Valentina and Broadway powerhouse Brandon Victor Dixon. In case, you don’t remember Dixon, might I suggest checking out my Jesus Christ Superstar-Live in Concert review, in which I raved to the heavens about Dixon’s portrayal of Judas Escariot. He’s literally amazing.
It seems like every year, I always find some new couple to obsess about. Usually, these couples are fake people, like Finn and Poe, Chirrut and Baze, Falcon and Captain America, Uhura and Spock, etc. But lately (and a little disconcertingly for me), I’ve found myself becoming obsessed with potential real-life couples, such as the fervor around Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o, or the possible moviemaking partnership between Octavia Spencer and Dev Patel. Now, I’m all about Valentina and Dixon. For real.
If we’re just speaking from a storytelling perspective, the only part of Rent I like is the love story between Angel and Tom, since they have the most sincere arc in the musical. Everyone else seems a little self-absorbed (maybe I’m missing something, but that’s just how I read most of the characters). Angel and Tom, however, are honest, lovely and kind-hearted. I wish the entire show was about them and I wish Angel didn’t die. I just want the story to end with them running away to Santa Fe to open up a food stand or whatever Tom was singing about.
My love the characters and their actors would end there. BUT. Then I watched this interview with Dixon and Valentina.
The energetic interviewer was giving a lot, but the excitable antics didn’t deter Dixon at all from staring at Valentina as if she was Venus on Earth. As folks have already said online, I want someone to look at me that way.
However, rehearsals are one thing and real feelings are another. So I’d like to make the case that there’s some kind of real frisson between them because of the amount of times Dixon kisses or touches Valentina without any real provocation (or any real demand from the character).
EVIDENCE: The above picture as well as the very end of the actual live portion of the production:
And the released video of the live performance of “I’ll Cover You (Reprise), in which a choked up Valentina embraces Dixon in a way that’s half in-character but mostly out of character.
Granted, everyone was crying during this song. Heck, if I was there, I’d be crying because of the power of Dixon’s voice. THAT MAN CAN SING! But this is why this article is gossip: it’s unsubstantiated, but nice to think about.
Anyways, IDK if any of this is true, just part of the fantasy, or what. But I know what my eyes saw! At any rate, it’s cute to see them together and I hope we can get more opportunities to see them act with each other.