They’re not gonna pay Rent, but they are gonna hang with The Cocktail. A live version of Rent is coming to TV tonight (8PM FOX), and two of the musically talented stars are chattin’ it up.
Vanessa Hudgens and Kiersey Clemons play the toxic couple Joanne and Maureen in tonight’s musical extravaganza.
You Know That You’re Toxic
While we’re sure neither is toxic in real life, they gave us some insight into what makes their characters so fun to bring to life. “She’s Ivy League educated,” Kiersey told us. “She’s in a relationship with the beautiful Maureen, played by Vanessa. And we have this very back and forth, some might call it a toxic relationship, but very much in love and complete opposites. And I think that’s what I have taken from Joanne. There’s so much beauty in opposites whether it’s platonic, romantic, familial relationship. Seeing how your other person can change you. And I love that about Joanne. They’re so completely different. So their relationship is as toxic, very beautiful. That’s the point I guess.”
And then there’s Joanne, Maureen’s opposite. “Maureen is not Ivy League educated. She is an absolute drama queen. She loves being the center of attention. She is a performance artist. She is someone who is about finding her own truth, and finding her word and letting it be known to the world. She loves stirring up the pot and she’s a lot of fun to play. I feel she’s allowed me to be more vocal about my own thoughts and my own words. And I feel like that’s a positive thing.”
Rent hit stages nearly 25 years ago, telling the story of a group of young people in New York fighting for a home, fighting AIDS, and fighting for acceptance. And their only real thing they have going for them is their relationships with each other. And while it’s tempting to try to update the story, producers have steadfastly resisted. Vanessa and Kiersey say they’re keeping it real, by keeping it retro. “We are in the 90s.” “We’ve got the 90s flip phones with antennas. We’ve got answering machines. It’s definitely still true to the way it was written.”
“It’s been very fun. I think we’re both coming from the same place of trying to bring these characters to a new generation and do our own thing.”
Let The Music Play
The show is filled with tons of songs you can’t name now but will likely remember once you hear them. Kiersey told us she has a fave. “I love Santa Fe. I’m not in Santa Fe, but I always to t be in that song so bad.” “I love Santa Fe.
Vanessa tried to hedge her bets, citing her superfandom. “Mine almost changes every single day, because i am such a Renthead and I love all of the songs so much.” But she wasn’t getting off that easy. “For our production, I think that my favorite number is Rent. It opens up the show. It really gives you a sense of scale in which we’re doing this production in. And it’s just so exciting, it’s so thrilling and as an audience number it’s gonna leave you feeling blown away.”
As Seen On TV
One of the problems of bringing stage to the small screen is keeping up the energy of your show despite frequent commercial breaks. Unlike on Broadway, where you have one break and then press on, TV needs to get in about 16 minutes of commercials an hour (even more if you have an ambitious sales department).
But the girls, who were deep into rehearsals when we chatted, say that won’t be a problem for Rent. “We just come back real hard after those commercial breaks,” Kiersey said. “Everyone’s vocals are so strong, our music is insane, obviously. And our choreography. There are just so many ways to visually, or if it’s sound, stimulate everyone when they come back from commercial break to just wake up.”
But that doesn’t mean they don’t take it down a notch, just like in the original production. “But it’s not just like hit it hard and high the whole time,” Vanessa said. “There are some extremely vulnerable and emotional moments throughout the show that allows it to kind of settle into a place that, I feel like because we’ve taken you on such a high for so long it allows you to really be hit by the emotions on an even deeper level.”
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Cheap wine. Like, $3.99 per bottle wine. If you’re not gonna pay Rent, you’re not gonna shell out big bucks for a buzz. Sure you’ll be hung over at work tomorrow, but who cares?