Paramount Studios was blessed with “Seasons of Love” as Fox’s live broadcast of Jonathan Larson’s Rent took the stage at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys. Executive producers Adam Siegel, Julie Larson and Alex Rudzinski as well as stars Vanessa Hudgens and Emmy nominated actor Brandon Victor Dixon (via Skype) talked about bringing the musical to live TV, how Brennin Hunt’s injury during production did not hinder the event and honoring Jonathan Larson’s legacy.
“Expect the unexpected is the mantra,” Rudzinski told Deadline’s Pete Hammond.
As a result of Hunt’s injury, Fox aired a full dress rehearsal with the finale of the musical being live. Even so, that didn’t take away from the live aspect of the show. Rudzinski said that this event blends movies, TV and theatrical to create a one-of-a-kind energy that is like opening night and closing night of a show.
Siegel admitted he didn’t like the fact that people were calling what aired a “dress rehearsal”.
“What America got to see was opening night,” Siegel said, echoing Rudzinski’s sentiment. “I’m proud to be part of this.”
Siegel said that the live event is a “throwback and a leap forward” as it honors the iconic musical and brings the story to new audiences in a fresh medium. “We took a show that was part of the avant-garde and took it to the mainstream,” he adds.
Rudzinski said that there’s an emotiveness on screen that resonates with the words that Jonathan Larson wrote. His sister, Julie Larson said that the musical was quite an unexpected journey.
“When Rent opened, it wasn’t really finished,” said Larson. “John had plans to do more with it.” His legacy has certainly lived on. After making its stage debut in 1996, it went on to become a feature film in 2005 directed by Chris Columbus.
Her brother died before opening night of Rent and she said that her family is deliberate with everything they do with the musical. For Fox’s live event, it was a question of finding the right combination of people to say yes. Luckily, it worked out.
“There was such kismet and everyone bonded like a family including the 200-plus people behind the scenes,” she said.
Larson said that the live event not only introduced the musical to a new generation but remains relevant to the times.
Based on Puccini’s La Bohème, Rent is set in the ’90s and follows a group of artists in New York City as they navigate the gentrification of East Village during the early AIDS era.
Marc Platt along with the Larson estate served as the executive producer of Rent. Tony Award-nominated director Michael Greif oversaw stage direction and Rudzinski served as the live television director. Kiersey Clemons, Jordan Fisher, Mario, Tinashe, Valentina and Keala Settle also starred in the live event.