Rent, Take Two

Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway hopes to erase memories of that ill-received Hollywood adaptation, and as Maureen, Eden Espinosa has just the stuff to make it happen.

BY Charles Romaine

February 17 2009 1:00 AM ET

On September 7, 2008 --
after 12 years and 5,124 performances --
Rent

closed on Broadway. For theater nuts who came of age in the
late '90s,
Rent

defined a generation. Creator Jonathan Larson's message was
deceptively simple:
no day but today ... don't compromise your artistic
principals for commercial success ... your community
can be your family ... homosexual relationships are just as
relevant and beautiful as heterosexual relationships.

These themes could have come across as
clich├ęs, but the brilliance of
Rent

is that Larson and his entire creative team tapped into the
resonant and limitless depth of emotion that fuels each of
these ideas. The fact that Jonathan Larson died the night
before the show opened off-Broadway, along with the
years of struggle and sacrifice he put in to get
Rent

to that point, only amplified his show's message.
Rent

was a near-instant success.

When Sony Pictures made
the film version of
Rent

in 2006, it used most of the original cast (with the notable
exceptions of Daphne Rubin-Vega's Mimi and Fredi Walker's
Joanne). Unfortunately, director Chris Columbus and the
talented cast were not able to fully capture the excitement and
energy of the stage production. But thankfully, the powers that
be went back to the drawing board and decided to film the
closing night of
Rent

.

Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway

is a theater lover's time capsule -- the closing night of a
historic Broadway show.

Besides the actual
performance, which finally preserves forever what makes
Rent

such a profound experience, the special features are the real
treat. The viewer gets to go backstage at the Nederlander
and watch interviews with the production team, the
cast, and even Jonathan Larson's parents.

Eden Espinosa, who
plays Maureen in this final performance, rose to theater fame
for her work as Elphaba in the Broadway and Los Angeles
productions of
Wicked.

She sat down with Advocate.com to talk about her experiences
filming the DVD, working with the L.A. cast of
Wicked

to support marriage equality, and what
Rent

means to her.

Advocate.com:I saw you just a few weeks ago with the other Los Angeles
Wicked

cast members at the "Defying Inequality" event at the
Factory, where you received a standing ovation singing "Over
the Rainbow." Can you tell me a little bit about the genesis
of the event?Eden Espinosa:

We had an idea for all of the
Wicked

companies in North America to pose a united front in support of
marriage equality. We didn't want to make this just a gay
issue; we wanted to focus on the human rights issue. So much of
the struggle ties in with Elphaba's. We had a great turnout. It
was a little tough emotionally because the show had closed here
in L.A. and the cast was literally packing up their lives and
leaving for San Francisco the next day.

Watching you and Megan Hilty (Glinda, who will open this
spring on Broadway as Doralee Rhodes in
9 to 5: The Musical

) close the benefit with "For Good" while Stephen
Schwartz played the piano was like crack for us theater freaks.
It really comes across that you both have terrific chemistry
together and affection for each other. What excites you the
most in an acting partner?

Well, we were planning on singing something else, and then at
the last minute we found out Stephen would be there. What
excites me is openness, being present, someone who is committed
to telling the story and who makes it as real as possible. It's
easy with Megan. It's like a partnership. She's always
committed to telling the story naturally, so it just makes it
easy

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