How do you measure a year in the life? In sunsets, in hashtags, or in times you revisit old favorite musicals? After successfully broadcasting a live version of Grease in 2016, Fox is tackling another Broadway classic: Rent, which airs on Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. ET. The Rent: Live cast features some well-known faces, such as Vanessa Hudgens, who plays Maureen, and Drag Race all-star Valentina, starring as Angel. In addition, there's a whole host of new faces that might not be as familiar, but soon will be, plus at least one old favorite (looking at you, Mario). Meanwhile, the Rent movie cast is stacked with big, established actors, including Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, Taye Diggs, and more.
The original Broadway version of Rent ran for 12 years, debuting on April 29, 1996. Of the main cast, all but two of the actors returned for the film:: Daphne Rubin-Vega (Mimi) and Fredi Walker-Browne (Joanne). They were replaced by Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thoms, respectively. According to the American Theatre Wing, Rent won both a Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Best Musical, among numerous other accolades.
While the 2005 film version received less critical praise than its theatrical counterpart, it nonetheless introduced the show and story to a much larger audience, helping it grow in popularity. Undoubtedly, the team behind Rent: Live is hoping to have a similar effect now. See how the two casts stack up below.
Angel Dumott Schunard
Described in the official Instagram post as "the heart and soul" of Rent, Angel is a transgender character that gets introduced to the group early on and becomes central to their combined story. Originally played by Wilson Jermaine Heredia, the role is now being taken over by 27-year-old Rupaul's Drag Race star Valentina.
Jesse Lamont Martin played Collins on Broadway in 1996, reprised the role for the 2005 movie, and now passes the torch to Brandon Victor Dixon. According to his website, Dixon is no stranger to performing live: he played Aaron Burr in Hamilton on Broadway and even received a Tony nomination for his role in Shuffle Along.
Stepping into the role made famous by Broadway heavyweight Anthony Rapp is 25-year-old Jordan Fisher. Fans of Fox's live events might remember Fisher as Doody in Grease, although he also had a stint on Broadway subbing for John Laurens/Philip Schuyler in Hamilton, per Playbill.
According to his own 2016 interview with Playbill, Adam Pascal had barely any theater experience when he was thrust into the spotlight to play Roger. Now he's passing the guitar and leather jacket on to Brennin Hunt. Hunt already knows what it's like to be in the public eye, as he gained a fair bit of exposure while competing on The X-Factor. He also guest-starred in an episode of Nashville back in 2015.
Actor Rosario Dawson took over the role of Mimi from Daphne Rubin-Vega, and now pop star Tinashe will play the part in Rent: Live. Arguably one of the biggest names in the show, Tinashe has already accrued a fan base from her career as a performing artist. While she's best known for her music, she's also acted in shows like Empire and Two and a Half Men.
Before she was defying gravity as Elphaba in Wicked, Idina Menzel was jumping over the moon as Maureen Johnson in Rent. Now, High School Musical and Grease: Live alum Vanessa Hudgens is stepping up to the plate. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, she explained that she might be a little nervous about that one particular tune. "'Over the Moon' is such a beast of a number," she said. "I have no one else to rely on, no one else to feed me anything. It's just literally me, me and me."
Tracie Thoms had a lot to live up to following Fredi Walker-Browne's Broadway portrayal of Joanne, and Kiersey Clemons is in a similar position now. Clemons has appeared in numerous TV and film roles, including Flatliners, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and New Girl. After Rent: Live, it looks like she's got a lot more work ahead of her with appearances slated in the upcoming films Lady and the Tramp, Flashpoint, and Sweetheart.
Benjamin Coffin III
Taye Diggs might have made the role of semi-sellout Benny look good back in 1996, but now that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Grammy-nominated singer Mario. Mario, too, has appeared on-screen before in both Step Up and Freedom Writers, although this will be his first time acting in a live stage performance, per Playbill.
While it can be hard to imagine a new face taking the place of a character that you've come to know and love so well, Rent is, at the end of the day, a work of musical theater, and theater is meant to be retold time and time again in different ways and by different people. With this cast of experienced performers working together, it looks like Rent: Live is in plenty of capable hands.