Day 3 of my Rent tour countdown! I’m so excited about this post! I’m about to give you a song by song, act by act comparison. Showing you exactly how closely related La bohème and RENT really are. I’m going to give the song title from the musical then give you the act it happens in and how it happened in the opera. The musical also doesn’t take place in the order of the opera so let’s get into it!
“Rent” (Opening Number):
In Act One of the opera, Marcello (Mark) and Rodolfo (Roger) burn Rodolfo’s manuscript to warm themselves. In the musical, the exact same thing is happening. Where it gets a little wonky is the introduction of Colline (Tom Collins) and Schuanard (Angel Dumott Schunard) in Rent they don’t get introduced until a little later.
“Light my candle”:
Rodolfo is alone to finish writing a piece, when there is a knock at the door. A girl’s candle has been blown out and she asks Rodolfo to light it. She is faint for a moment, Rodolfo helps her, and she decides to go. She then realizes she’d lost her key, Rodolfo finds the key and hides it. He takes her cold hands and tells about his life as a poet. He finds her attractive and asks her more about herself. She tells him her name is Mimi and tells him about her life as an embroiderer.
He sees Mimi Bathed in the moonlight. They fall in love and leave singing of their love. In Rent, it’s almost word for word what takes place here. Her Key is replaced with a baggie of drugs and her job is as an exotic dancer at the Cat Scratch Club. Her being bathed in the moonlight is also a line taken directly form the opera. They also talk about her father, cold hands, and even his past as a rock star. In the End, seed of their love is planted but she leaves with her baggie instead of staying with him in that scene.
“Today For You A&B, and You’ll see Boys”:
In the Opera, the scenes that became “Today for You” and “Life Support” take place before “Light my Candle”. Colline (the philosopher) arrives with Schuanard (the musician) bearing gifts of wine and food. Schuanard tells how a wealthy man paid him to play his violin till a parrot died. He goes on to tell them that they will celebrate at Café Momus. They are then interrupted by the landlord, Benoît (Benjamin Coffin III). He came to collect rent. They get him drunk, and allow him to talk about his life, then they put him out without the rent money.
In Rent, Schuanard is a drag queen that is AIDS positive and finds Collins on the street after he was mugged. Today for you is Angel telling how she acquired the money for the gifts of food she brought, that include killing an annoying dog for a neighbor. They’re interrupted by Benny like in the opera but instead he is an old friend that married the landlord’s daughter. He comes for rent even after telling Mark and Roger they were “golden” and didn’t have to pay.
From here Jonathan filled in the blanks, skipped around, and did some switching around of roles. A large chunk of Act 1 never really happened in the opera. I won’t run that down just to be a spoiler sensitive as possible but you can always Wikipedia the synopsis or go see the show link here: https://www.ticketmaster.com/Rent-tickets/artist/844066?automated_agent=1
A Great crowd is formed in the town’s center in celebration. The friends all together enter the squard. Colline buys a coat from a street vendor, Schuanard a horn, and Rodolfo buys Mimi a bonnet. The children are all in search for Parpignol, the toy seller. In Rent, the people are gathered the same but instead of families they were homeless people in the square. Unlile the opera, Angel buys Collins a coat instead of Collins himself and Mimi hadn’t arrived with them. Roger had found her there after previously yelling at her. Interestingly, in the show Parpignol, the toy seller was a drug dealer selling to the homeless in the square.
Instead of “Over the Moon” being Maureen’s (Musetta’s) entrance she comes into play at LaVie Boheme: Towards the middle of Act two in the opera, Musetta (Maureen, Musetta waltz is also referenced in the show) arrives with Alcindoro (Joanne) her government minister admirer. She’s tormenting him. she sings a risqué song, Musetta’s waltz (La Vie Boheme) hoping to reclaim Marcello’s attention. Mimì recognizes that Musetta truly loves Marcello. To get rid of Alcindoro (Joanne) Musetta pretends to be suffering from a tight shoe and sends him to the shoemaker to get her shoe mended.
Alcindoro leaves, and Musetta and Marcello fall rapturously into each other’s arms. They get the bill, Schaunard’s purse goes missing. No one else has enough money to pay so Musetta has the entire bill charged to Alcindoro. He comes back with the fixed shoe and he waiter hands him the bill and Alcindoro sinks into his chair.
In the show, Maureen does the same and sends Joanne to pack the speakers froom her concert. One thing Jonathan chose to do was instead of having Joanne catch Mark and Maureen, he had Maureen kiss another girl and Joanne walk in and see that. You could see we already went away from the Rodolfo and Mimi storyline in “Light my Candle”. Which explains why we’re missing the kiss at the end of act 1 that happens in the show.
I also think it’s really cool that Act one and two of the opera are essentially act one of Rent. This is a lot though sooooo I’ll be back tomorrow with Acts three and four of the opera and how they connect to act two of Rent.