If there's one Rent song you know, it's "Seasons of Love." Whether your school choir sang it at graduation or the beloved theatre geeks belted it out together while huddling around a piano, it's an iconic piece of musical theatre. For new and old fans alike, this song is an anticipated part of Fox's live televised event. The performance of "Seasons of Love" in Rent: Live mixed it up and slightly rearranged the iconic song — but in a way that connected it to the story in a new, insightful way.
Typically, the song opens the second act with every member of the cast on stage in a single line, singing together in unison. Even the 2005 movie broke the conventions of film in order to maintain that image. However, Rent heads watching the Fox version may notice some small differences. For one, Mark has a new bit of narration during the opening vamp that welcomes the audience back and sets up the second act:
"New Year's Eve, 1991. Four of my best friends have been diagnosed with HIV. This could be the year we lose of them. This could be the year we lose all of them."
Secondly, he sings a good portion of the song alone, whereas this is typically a group number. There's also a little dialogue in the middle of the song, plus a new scene in the life support meeting. "Holidays are the hardest to get through," says one of the Bohemian women in the ensemble. "I give up," Steve replies. "I don't know how to go on." Then, the man with the next solo says, "We go on because we have to," to which Keala Settle's character, Cy, responds, "Day by day, hour by hour." "Even minute by minute."
In the stage show, "Seasons of Love" stands alone, and while it's an iconic picture, this new staging and arrangement brings the song into the story in a really beautiful way. Plus, the energy is different when you watch the story in this medium. The audience has only been away for a commercial break, not a whole intermission, so it might be jarring to break up the action with the original staging.
At the end of Rent Live broadcast, the original Broadway cast took to the stage to perform "Seasons of Love" again with the original staging. That included every major actor: Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Fredi Walker, Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin, and Wilson Jermaine Heredia. Their new Rent Live counterparts joined them. So we ultimately get it both ways — which is totally fine! And now we'll have two new versions of "Seasons of Love" on the TV soundtrack — a little of the old and a little of the new.
Purists, by definition, might not love changes. However, how boring would a new production of Rent be if they did everything exactly the same as a previous cast and a previous production? It's nice to have a fresh take on old material, even if it's a classic.