Saturday, July 12, 2008
Campbell Robertson takes a look at the Broadway smasheroo "Rent, " which closes in September after nearly 12 years, in the Times Sunday....("Bohemia takes its final bows")
Now, 12 years later, it would be impossible to see the show and think it was set any time in the past decade. Much of “Rent” has become downright nostalgic, almost jarringly so. Several numbers revolve around pay phones and answering machines (20-somethings with answering machines!). Roger, the gloomy, HIV-positive guitarist with a nasty case of rocker’s block, plays gigs at CBGB, then a landmark of the New York underground music scene, now a menswear boutique. A group of lefty hipsters talk politics with no mention of anyone named Cheney or even the first Bush.
Did “Rent” play a part in changing the neighborhood it celebrates? Probably. “Rent” is the “All the President’s Men” of aspirant hipsters, a great advertisement for Alphabet City (once and never more to be marked off by the avenues Awful, Bad, Crazy and Dangerous), where you can come live on dreams and tofu.
I’d go even further and stipulate: “Rent” is a safe, accessible show that at times struggles, even strains, to put up a dangerous front. The “Rent” marketing campaign has tempered that gritty facade in recent years; the show now, like “The Phantom of the Opera,” advertises itself as something you simply have to see — and come back to — because of its place in the culture.
But think about that. Is there a more accurate reflection of recent New York history? Friendly, clean, low-crime, nonsmoking, trans-fat-free, cabs-that-take-credit-cards New York? A city we can’t honestly pretend is rough and gritty anymore?