In the years since his sudden demise—which infamously occurred on the morning of Rent‘s first preview off-Broadway—stories about composer Jonathan Larson have reached almost mythic proportions. Later this year, actor Andrew Garfield will play a version of the playwright on-screen in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s movie adaptation of Larson’s autobiographical musical, Tick, Tick… Boom!. But if you wish to higher perceive why musical theater aficionados are so invested in Larson—and why his 1996 musical nonetheless impacts so many individuals, 25 years later—then tune in to Revolution Rent, a new documentary airing on HBO on June 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
The documentary is one thing of a ardour undertaking for co-director Andy Señor Jr., who as soon as performed the position of Angel the drag queen in each Broadway and West End productions of Rent in the ’90s. (Wilson Jermaine Heredia performed the position in the authentic manufacturing, and in the 2005 film.) In 2015, he returned to the present as the director, tasked with staging the present in his dad and mom’ homeland, Cuba—the nation’s first Broadway musical in over 50 years. Revolution Rent, directed by Andy Señor Jr. and Victor Patrick Alvarez, follows Señor on that journey.
Some of the typical theater drama ensues: Señor wanting pained as less-than-great singers audition; Señor scolding his solid for failing to indicate as much as rehearsal; solid members insisting they’re all half of one big human physique. But there’s the not-so-typical drama, too—like Señor’s household vehement disapproval of him returning to a nation they fled from, or the actor who performs Joanne’s obvious homophobia when she insists the actor taking part in Maureen “not kiss or touch her.” She later appears to get extra snug with the thought of being at the least a little bodily along with her on-stage girlfriend, but it surely’s a reminder that Larson’s play—that includes an ensemble solid of homosexual, lesbian, and queer characters dwelling underneath the shadow of the AIDS epidemic—remains to be revolutionary in some elements of the world.
The movie is at its finest when it attracts parallels between Larson’s characters—poor, younger bohemian artists dwelling in a horrible condo with out warmth—and the actors in the present. In the most hanging sequence, we go to the properties of the solid. Almost all of them live in run-down flats. One ensemble member, Arianna, tries to make espresso for the documentary crew, and discovers her water isn’t working. These excursions are paired with archival footage of Larson’s precise condo, which he used as the foundation for the condo of Rent. It’s clear that Larson’s story resonates with these Cuban actors, maybe much more than it does with anybody at present dwelling in Manhattan’s East Village.
Señor leans into the parallels. In the track “What You Own,” wherein Mark and Roger lament the hardships of dwelling in capitalist America, he asks his actors to alter the lyrics from “America” to “Cuba.” And it’s clear that Señor feels a sense of connection to Larson—a drive to do proper by him— although he by no means knew the composer personally. He pushes his actors relentlessly with the intention to get the present able to open by December 24, as a result of Larson all the time needed to open the present on Christmas Eve. During the solid’s group dinner earlier than their present opens, he asks everybody to share one thing they’re grateful for, citing the undeniable fact that the train was one thing Larson used to do together with his associates.
It’s not a excellent documentary. A story involving Señor’s mom returning to Cuba feels rushed and underdeveloped, and when you’re not a Rent-head, you won’t discover a lot else to latch on to. But for Rent followers, it’s a shifting alternative to witness the lasting influence of Larson’s work. And on the yr of the musical’s twenty fifth anniversary, a few months earlier than Tick, Tick… Boom! streams on Netflix in late 2021, it’s a reminder that couldn’t come at a higher time.