Take them or leave them: How does the Rent Live cast compare to the original Broadway cast?


FOX officially announced the cast for Rent Live. How does this new cast compare to the original Broadway players?

Rent Live on FOX joins the growing list of legendary Broadway musicals coming to television. While Rent resonated with audiences over 20 years ago, the newest live television production looks to capture a young audience. Although the HIV/AIDS epidemic might not be the current, all-encompassing news headline, the underlying story of love and acceptance is timeless. Can this group of younger actors capture the emotional heart behind Jonathan Larson’s legacy?

When Rent debuted on Broadway, many of the actors might not have been household names. Today, many of those actors have been are synonymous with the Great White Way. Each of those performers had a blank canvas on which to craft characters which impacted many future musicals and characters.

As with any revival, Broadway fans will tend to make comparisons with the original cast. With this Fox live version, the cast reflects a more diverse group of performers. While this new cast needs to pave its own path, they do have big shoes to fill.

While musical fans will have to wait till January 27, 2019 to see the Rent Live, speculation about what this cast has to offer can fuel the excitement about the upcoming performance. Here are a few thoughts about comparing this new cast to the original Broadway cast.

Vanessa Hudgen (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) / Idina Menzel (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Turner)

Maureen Johnson: Vanessa Hudgens versus Idina Menzel

Long before she let it go or defied gravity, Menzel encouraged Broadway audiences to channel their inner cow jumping over the moon and moo. The role of Maureen needs a brash exterior and a slightly manipulative demeanor. While Hudgens has tried to shed that good girl, Disney image, she will need to get some grit for this performance.

The key for Hudgens in this role will be to channel a little bit of the mean girl attitude. That better than you façade is what makes Maureen both enviable and intriguing. After all, who else can get everyone to moo like a cow?

Brennin Hunt (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for NPG) / Adam Pascal (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

Roger Davis: Brennin Hunt versus Adam Pascal

Roger wants to be the heart-throb but he is flawed by his past mistakes. Trapped in a downward spiral, he wants to find love again but is frightened to totally give into the experience. Pascal had the raspy, gritty voice with a bit of swagger that effortlessly channeled a tortured rock star.

For Hunt to make this role his own, he needs to find a different approach to the songs. Instead of re-creating that gravelly tone, he needs to bring his own version of emotion to this role. Fans want to fall in love with Rodger and will him out of his despair. Whether he can create an evocative love song remains to be seen.

Jordan Fisher (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) /Anthony Rapp (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Los Angeles Condfidential)

Mark Cohen: Jordan Fisher versus Anthony Rapp

Mark is the conscious of Rent. As the observer/recorder, he is always slightly distant and removed from the rest of the group. This role needs the characteristic of wanting to be part of the group yet not wanting to give himself over to the experience.

Rapp always seemed to convey that vulnerability that is essentially Mark. Fisher needs to discard that popular part of the crowd charisma for something more subtle. As the show’s conscious, he needs to bring everyone together while not letting anyone get too close.

Tinashe (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) / Daphne Rubin-Vega (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)

Mimi Marquez: Tinashe versus Daphne Rubin-Vega

Mimi can be a confusing character. She is easily influenced and often manipulated. Like many of the Rent characters, her hard exterior was created due to heartbreak and hardship. While she might show a confident dance on the stage, she is just a young girl wanting to find love.

Tinashe needs to channel that tough girl attitude. Rubin-Vega had a swagger when she sang “Take Me Out Tonight” and a charm. Still, that hurting girl needs to peak through on occasion.

Mario (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Essence) / Taye Diggs (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for for The Valentin Fuster Mount Sinai Foundation for Science, Health & Empowerment)

Benjamin Coffin III: Mario versus Taye Diggs

Benny is the bad guy of the show. Trying to kick his friends out of the apartment, he is the representation of those people who turn away from their idealistic roots for capitalistic pursuits. Diggs excelled at the guy-you-want-to-hate persona.

Mario needs to be big and bold anytime he takes the stage. While Benny is mentioned periodically, he has limited stage time. For his portrayal, each moment needs to be brash.

Brandon Victor Dixon (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for American Theatre Wing) / Jessie L. Martin (Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images)

Tom Collins: Brandon Victor Dixon versus Jessie L. Martin

Collins is the rational voice of the group who is truly transformed by love. From his unlikely angel, Collins shows that the detached, despondent person can be fulfilled by another person’s love. In the Broadway cast, Martin evoked raw emotion in his devastating loss.

As an accomplished Broadway performer, Dixon will transform this role into his own. After his successful role in Jesus Christ Superstar, he could steal the show from other bigger name performers. His rendition of “I’ll Cover You” may leave people in tears (as it should).

Valentina (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images) / Wilson Jermain Heredia (Photo by WireImages)

Angel Dumont Schunard: Valentina versus Wilson Jermain Heredia

Angel is the life of Rent. While she often adds a bit of levity to a delicate scene, she is the unifying factor amongst all the characters. She lives her life without regret, which is something that the other characters only dream about. The softness of Heredia’s performance was more compelling than the louder moments.

For Valentina to successfully make this role her own, she must remember the subtly of Angel. Of course, there are huge production numbers, but the fragility hiding under that big personality needs to peak through occasionally.

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With the success of other live Broadway television productions, Rent Live should be equally successful. And while it might be on television for just a couple of hours, I hope that its message of 525,600 minutes of love, compassion and tolerance will resonate for many more years to come.

Given today’s volatile, hurtful world, the show’s theme of love and acceptance is a message that everyone could benefit from in their lives.