UPDATE: Most of tonight’s “live” Rent on Fox will actually be from a performance taped before a live audience last night, necessitated by Brennin Hunt’s broken foot (see below). The announcement was made by the cast during an early commercial break. The cast gathered to tell the viewing audience that most of tonight’s performance was taped last night, but that the cast, including Hunt, will appear for the final act of tonight’s show – along with members of the original Broadway cast – in a hastily reworked segment.
As if Hunt’s injury wasn’t enough, tonight’s broadcast was beset by some early, if fairly brief, technical glitches. At least in New York, the action got off to a late start when the picture froze and, once unfrozen, audio occasionally and momentarily dropped in and out.
PREVIOUS: Producers of the three-hour broadcast had prepared for any inevitability, but the leads in the show do not have Broadway-style understudies. The severity of Hunt’s injury, which he suffered toward the end of rehearsal when he rolled his ankle, was not clear as the hours counted down to showtime, but Deadline’s sister publication, TVLine, reported his ankle was broken. Hunt plays singer-songwriter Roger Davis.
Fox is expected to weave portions of Hunt’s taped performance from Saturday’s rehearsal into the main live show to lessen the stress on the actor. He was having trouble putting weight on the ankle at the end of the rehearsal, according to numerous eyewitness reports. It is customary for networks to rely on recorded dress rehearsals to replace sections of the live broadcast as a contingency. (In 2016, Fox had such a plan in place in case rain fell on outdoor scenes of Grease.)
One additional element of the broadcast that could help shift the focus away from Hunt’s ankle is the planned appearance of the original Broadway cast of the show. Adam Pascal originated the role of Roger Davis, and his 1996 castmates included Anthony Rapp, Idina Menzel, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Freddi Walker and Taye Diggs.
In a statement, the network said, “Last night during a live performance of Fox’s production of Rent, one of the actors, Brennin Hunt, was injured. But in the spirit of Rent, everyone – producers and cast, original and current — is dedicated to ensuring that tonight’s broadcast must, and will, go on.”
Rent, which was created by Jonathan Larson, who died suddenly on the eve of its Off Broadway premiere, is loosely based on Puccini’s La Bohème but shifts the setting of the story to 1990s New York. It is a physically demanding show, with a lot of movement and dexterity required of its cast, in addition to singing and acting chops.
Julie Larson, Jonathan’s sister, said in a statement, “The experience of putting together this beautiful new production of my brother’s work, while emotional, has been truly joyous for all of us. This new cast has embodied the spirit of the show from day one and they embraced Brennin with positive and uplifting love in his moment of need. Rent has always been about resilience and community. I speak from my heart when I say that we have a spectacular show for you tonight. We can’t wait for a new generation to experience Jonathan’s legacy.”