The latest addition to the trend of live musical performances, “Rent: Live,” aired on FOX on Jan. 27, but it did not premiere as originally planned. Cast member Brennin Hunt, who plays Roger Davis, broke his foot during the show’s dress rehearsal the night before, which caused FOX to use pre-recorded material instead of a completely live performance in order to premiere the show as scheduled. Many people were outraged by this decision, but FOX did the right thing in broadcasting the show anyways. They persevered through this unfortunate turn of events for one of their main cast members and delivered the long-awaited performance as best as they could for their viewers. FOX released a statement about Hunt’s injury, which was obtained by People, saying that, “‘Last night during a live performance,’” meaning the dress rehearsal the night before the actual performance, “‘of FOX’s production of RENT, one of the actors, Brennin Hunt, was injured…‘But in the spirit of RENT, everyone – producers and cast, original and current — is dedicated to ensuring that tonight’s broadcast must, and will, go on.’” This led to FOX deciding to use pre-recorded footage from the dress rehearsal for part of the broadcast, but luckily the finale was live.
Meanwhile, reported by People, “those sitting in the television studio in Los Angeles did get a performance — which, according to Twitter video, featured Hunt in a wheelchair, his foot elevated.” Many outside viewers were outraged with this decision to use pre-recorded material. Though this seems like FOX network was cheating its audiences out of seeing the live performance that they were promised, at least the network broadcasted something similar to what was originally planned. They could have delayed the premiere until Hunt was healed, but that would have made people even more upset.
Many people took to social media, complaining about how “Rent: Live” was broadcasted. According to Romper, “Some wanted to know where the understudies were and why there wasn’t one available for Hunt’s part” and others, “just wanted to see what was going on onstage while everyone else was watching something that had been recorded before.” Though these are valid reasons to not be happy with having to watch pre-recorded material for a supposedly live show, they may not have had understudies because people look forward to seeing the original cast that is announced. If they put in a new actor at the last minute, people would be upset that they wouldn’t see the original people they were looking forward to seeing. Also, broadcasting the pre-recorded footage was FOX’s best option of showing their outside viewers what the performance would have been like if it truly was live. With Hunt being in a wheelchair, the performance probably would have been negatively impacted because it could not be performed as well as it was rehearsed. People said that, “Video screens showed the broadcast version, meanwhile, so people in the audience could see how it was intended to be,” meaning that the audience who came to experience “Rent: Live” in person still got to, but they also had the broadcast showing so they could see how it was supposed to be performed without Hunt confined to a wheelchair.
Another factor that seemed to upset many of the viewers was that, according to Romper, “some viewers had to work to find a way to watch, given the TV issues some experienced at the beginning of the show.” When viewers finally got access, they had both missed part of the beginning and found out it was not a completely live performance as promised. This is definitely frustrating, but it needs to be acknowledged that FOX was trying to utilize the best solution they had in order to deliver the performance, whether it was live or not. It is true that many viewers recognized that FOX was just trying to do the best they could to premiere a much-anticipated show. Romper reports that, “Some fans noted that while they’d prefer it if the show had truly been live (which is totally understandable), they weren’t exactly hating how the show had turned out, even it was it was just a rehearsal.” As much as people wanted a truly live performance, FOX did the right thing of persevering through the obstacle of Hunt’s injury and still delivering a great show. Valentina, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” queen, who plays Angel, says it best, as reported by People, “But “Rent” has always been about community, resiliency and bouncing back, so the show must go on.”