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Take Two


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.

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 cliches, 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 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. 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

Without naming any names, have you ever had any bad experiences? No ... thankfully, no bad experiences. I will tell you being thrown into an established cast is hard. When there are already relationships formed, people used to working with someone else ... that can be challenging.

I've read that your father is a minister and Christian composer. Has there been any conflict with your family or in reconciling your Christian background with the fact that you work with and have so many gay friends in your life? No, no ... my father is a teacher. He was the worship leader at our church when I was growing up. There has never been an issue from my family. They love all of my friends and consider them part of their own family. I have my own faith, but I am removed from the church.

Like you, I grew up in Southern California. Growing up, most of my musical theater references came from the MGM movies. It wasn't until Rent opened down at the La Jolla Playhouse that I really had that theatrical experience. I became a West Coast "Rent Head" at 16. Is there one show that did that for you? My grandmother used to take me to dinner theaters, but yeah, I watched a lot of the movie musicals and was obsessed with them. It wasn't until high school that I realized I wanted to do this as a profession. When I was a senior in high school I was doing a show at Disneyland. One day my friend played the Rent soundtrack for me, and that was it for me. It's what I wanted to do. I mean, I can do legit and stuff ... but I really wanted to just rock out!

You did Flora, the Red Menace at Reprise last year. That score is so beautiful. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience? I had finished Wicked and my agents were contacted about my doing the show. I went on vacation, met with the director when I got back, and was offered the part. I honestly had never heard of the show before agreeing to do it, so I did my research and realized it was written by Kander and Ebb and it was Liza's first Broadway show. I was beginning to feel a lot of pressure from the whole "Liza" thing, so I made it a point not to listen to the soundtrack while learning it. The whole experience at Reprise is intense. It's literally 10 days of rehearsals, two days of tech, and that's it.

That's insane! How did Rent come into your life? Did you know that you would be part of the closing cast going into the production? Right before Flora I was asked to be in the closing cast of Rent. They actually wanted me to go into the show earlier, but at that point I was committed to Flora and wanted to honor that. I had wanted to do Rent for 12 years. I auditioned every time it came to L.A. I auditioned for the movie. I had finally gotten to the point where I was resigned to never doing it.

The movie version just didn't work. It should have been done the way you got to do it -- filmed live. Yes, I agree it should have been filmed live.

How different was it to perform with cameras? Did it interfere at all with the "live" aspect of your performance? Did you have to make any spontaneous adjustments? I don't remember any intrusions at all. We ran through the big numbers the day before and filmed some close-ups on numbers like "Christmas Bells." I was very determined to show that we were actors and not let the cameras affect the performance. You know, if you go out there and do what you do every night, you'll be fine.

When you're not working, where do you spend most of your time? New York or L.A.? I am planning to be as bicoastal as possible, but L.A. is home.

Besides theater, what else would you love to accomplish in your career or just personally? I want to do an album. But I want to do an album that is me and what I want to say, not just a collection of theater songs. You know, singing is my first love, but I'd also love to just act ... do a play and stretch those muscles.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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