Monday, May 8, 2017

The musical Rent 20+ years later

Surprising absolutely no one, I was a theater kid growing up. I think I heard my first musical when I was about 11 or 12, and I never looked back. In 1996, the musical that all the theater kids fell in love with was Jonathan Larson's Rent.

As a kid growing up on military bases for the US and passing for white, I admit that I didn't really get a lot of the themes of the musical when I first heard it. It didn't keep me from listening to it over and over, memorizing the lyrics of "La Vie Boheme" even though I didn't understand all of the references. It was the show everyone was talking about.

This past weekend, I came across the movie of the musical that was released in 2005. I'd seen the show performed once in a theater, but never watched the movie, and so I decided to take a look.

The first thing that hit me was how many of the lyrics I still remembered - it's probably been at least 15 years since I've listened to the cast recording, but there it all was again. The second thing I noticed was how much of a jerk Roger is, holy hell. How that character didn't get just clocked, I'll never know.

Finally, the songs were a little different this time around. I always found the melody of "Will I?" haunting, and listening to it this time was no exception. But the first time I heard it, I was 15 - reasonably healthy, if a little out of shape; starting to feel the first signs of depression and anxiety, but not to the point that they were taking over my life. The idea of wondering if I would die without my dignity was incredibly far off to me.

Now? I'm 36. There are days when the depression and anxiety work together in their efforts to destroy me. My physical health is full of chronic problems that flare whenever they want to, meaning a "good" day could mean only needing a cane, or having a headache that doesn't leave me longing for the dark and the quiet. I've watched parts of my family come apart, and worked on creating a family of my own. The questions of that song are a lot more relevant to my interests these days.

Will I lose my dignity?
Will someone care?
Will I wake tomorrow
From this nightmare?