RENT [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

Jonathan Larson

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RENT [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] Review

by William Ruhlmann

In their transfers from stage to screen, Broadway musicals usually suffer from extensive cast changes and sometimes from major alterations in their scores. Rent, the rock-oriented update of La Vie Boheme with book, music, and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, was taken to film by director Chris Columbus with much of the cast and all of the score intact. The only caveat may be time; the show opened in 1996, the film in 2005, and that means, for instance, that when Roger (Adam Pascal) guesses that Mimi (Rosario Dawson) is 16 years old and she admits to being 19 in the song "Light My Candle," it's not quite believable. But that's a problem only onscreen, not on the soundtrack album. Arranger and album producer Rob Cavallo has been faithful to Larson's writing, so here the real question is how the new recording measures up to the original Broadway cast album. In his liner notes, Columbus makes a case for the new one by stating, "This time around, the songs were recorded over several months, with much time and care." He is referring to the tendency to record Broadway shows in a rush, shortly after opening, usually in a single day, in fact, with only as much care as can be achieved in that time. Of course, it's also true that a cast fresh from the theater has an immediacy that's hard to reproduce nearly a decade (and hundreds of performances) later. The veteran cast members do a good job here, with Pascal, Dawson, Anthony Rapp, and Idina Menzel in particular working hard to re-create the passion that infused their initial performances. Still, this version takes a close second to the first one. (One extra song has been added at the end, the excellent "Love Heals," which Larson wrote for an AIDS benefit, not for the show.)

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