The musical Rent is probably not one that many people associate with Christianity—or with any religion, for that matter. There are only a few irreverent mentions of religion in some of the song lyrics, and if you have seen the play (not the movie) there is a brief scene where a priest yells at Collins for not being able to pay for Angel’s burial and uses the term “queer” to insult him. This seems pretty bleak from the religious end, but to me Rent actually has some amazing Christian themes. The basic message of the musical is to love everyone and to take care of the poor, vulnerable, and outcast in our society. Well, that’s basic Catholic Social Teachingright there. Sure, the religious institutions in Rent (and in real life) don’t always live up that message, but our small band of artists try to. In particular, they are shown how to love and live their lives by Angel. Angel is central to this story and the Christian themes of the musical, as theybasically act as a Christ figure who leads the others through their actions. In this way we get an important story not just for queer people, but particularly for queer Christians. In this post, I will be referring to Angel with gender neutral pronouns since the characters refer to Angel with with both masculine and feminine pronouns and it’s not clear how specifically Angel identifies.
Popular media is making teensy tiny strides in queer representation, but it’s still light years behind where it should be. One of the many issues in today’s portrayal of LGBTQ+ people in media is that their stories are often tragic. Queer characters may exist in a universe, but in all likelihood their relationships, if they’re lucky enough to initiate them, will fail, and they themselves may very well die or disappear.
The ubiquity of this trope occurred to me recently when I was listening to Part 2 of Welcome to Night Vale’s 2nd Anniversary episode. As part of the conclusion of the episode, which wrapped up the recent Strexcorp invasion storyline, everyone and everything that wasn’t from Night Vale was ejected from the town. Unfortunately, this included Carlos, Cecil’s boyfriend, who’s now trapped in an alternate dimension. Their relationship has mostly been smooth sailing up to this point, and I can’t fault the WtNV writers for introducing some new conflict into the storyline now that Strex is gone and a mayor has been elected. But still, I was kind of sad because Cecil and Carlos’s problem-free relationship, while somewhat unrealistic for any humans, queer or not, was a safe space of angst-free queer love. I certainly haven’t found anything like that in other media; in other media being queer is apparently the equivalent of using a black cat to break a mirror underneath a ladder on Friday the 13th.
It’s a strange thing to experience the source material when you’re already a fan of the adaptation. Reading Hamlet after watching The Lion King, or The Wizard of Oz or Mary Poppins books after watching their respective movies can be really weird. So it was for me when I saw La bohème, the opera on which RENT was based, for the first time last week.
Chances are that many of you have heard of Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece RENT, but I’m guessing that fewerof you have heard of his lesser-known previous work, tick, tick… BOOM! While I love RENT with all of my heart, it’s a shame that this musical isn’t more widely knownbecause tick, tick… BOOM! is probably the better written musical.
When one thinks of musical theatre, it’s easy to have a myopic focus on Broadway. After all, it is held as the pinnacle of the art form, and in American culture, the name is used interchangeably with “musical” (ie: people will refer to themselves as “Broadway fans” just as quickly as “musical fans”; someone might say he saw a “Broadway” show in Cleveland; etc.). Many fans will also know of London’s West End as well, as it’s a similarly prolific producer of musicals and there is such a frequent exchange of shows between the two.
What many fans may not realize, however, is that there is a whole wide world of musical theatre ready to be explored.
Sorry for the super blunt title, but I see no need to pussyfoot around the issue.
With last night’s live performance of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood and inspired by Broadway.com’s article casting pop stars in other Rogers & Hammerstein shows, I started thinking about pop stars I’d like to see in the next TV musical (if they become a thing, and I hope they do). It wasn’t long before the obvious answer came to me: former Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger.
Now, if you’re not familiar with Nicole, you may find this notion a bit surprising, but she’s actually quite the obvious choice if you look at some of her performances in the last few years.
We at Lady Geek Girl and Friends are ardent supporters of sex workers’ rights and sex positivity. Because of this, we find the portrayal of sex workers in musicals, well, troubling at best. As with many other forms of media, prostitution is shown as pretty much the lowest possible rung a woman can reach. Sometimes it’s used as a code word that means ‘she has a tragic backstory’; sometimes it’s used to show just how low she has been brought. Either way, if you’re a sex worker in a musical, odds are you’re gonna have a bad time.
Fantine from Les Miserables probably comes to mind first. Fantine, left with no other way, is forced to turn to prostitution. Her compatriots, who all seem to be hookers with hearts of gold sing raucously about their trade at first and seem to be pretty content with their lot, but as Fantine’s situation worsens, their lyrics as well as her lyrics get more and more tragic:
[Ensemble] Lovely ladies, going for a song
Got a lot of callers but they never stay for long
[Fantine] Come on, captain, you can wear your shoes
Don’t it make a change to have a girl who can’t refuse
Easy money, lying on a bed,
just as well they never see the hate that’s in your head
don’t they know they’re making love to one already dead?
She’s at it again! Tessa Netting, fangirl extraordinaire, is doing her Broadway/Sci-fi/Fantasy fanart in this awesome little musical masterpiece. If you don’t recognize the tune, consider this my Christmas gift:
Tessa was a member of the original Broadway cast of Billy Elliot the musical which was where I was first introduced to her. She was hilarious as the Broadway’s original “Spastic Starfish” and I loved her so I’m very glad that she now does fun stuff like this online and on stage. She often does events with other awesome creative fans like the StarKid folks.
I thought this would be worth sharing since I think we’re all pretty fond of Tolkien around here and Tessa’s gone ahead and made an awesome video with his characters. I’ve gotta say, her costumes and wigs are pretty impressive! I mean they’re not like, convention-level cosplay but they’re pretty varied and detailed enough to make the characters distinct and recognizable. Her re-written lyrics fit the measure of the song very well so I have to say kudos to Tessa for a job well done.
Plus she’s combined The Hobbit with Rent and Christmas, making for an awesome video for fans of all kinds to enjoy during the holiday.
This hilarious website sends up some of your favorite Broadway musicals by re-writing them in shorter, more honest ways.
Broadway Abridged writes out scripts with characters given names like “LATINA CHICK” (AKA Mimi Marquez of Rent) and stage directions such as “From the flyspace, enter VAUDEVILLIAN DISTRACTION”.
It’s not necessary to know the shows that are being mocked (though that certainly helps) because the humor is apparent and with just a little imagination one can easily picture what would be happening onstage.