So the first thing you need to know about going to see Rent on Broadway is that there is a crazy line before the show. It snakes around the block. It crowds the sidewalk and yes, all those people have tickets.
As I mentioned on Friday, we actually saw Rent before, ages and ages ago. Probably the first cast after the original cast left. It was good. We clapped and I cried and then we got on with our lives. I don't believe there was a line.
As we approached the theater Jason went pale. Jason hates lines. He hates anything remotely resembling a line.
"We have tickets, right?" he asked, "That's just the line for those cheap tickets, right?"
I glanced at my watched and shook my head. "The lottery already happened."
We wandered through the crowd towards Will Call -- past many people fanning themselves with Ticketmaster printouts -- and I tried to figure out what I was missing here. There was no line at Will Call. We all had assigned seats. They never start the show until everybody is seated.
I collected our tickets from Will Call and joined what turned out to be a secondary line out on the sidewalk: the Line For People Who Are Not Waiting In That Goddamned Line.
"Is it like, the Star Wars line?" I asked. "Are people doing it for...fun?"
We stood in a line outside the Uptown Theater in DC once, for the first Star Wars movie. We waited for an hour and a half and Jason was ready to claw his face off, especially after he had the brilliant idea of escaping to Starbucks, only to discover there was also a line there, and he returned coffeeless and kind of wild-eyed and subsequently hated the movie.
"Lines are never fun." Jason said. "There's got to be another reason."
The Goddamned Line started to move, and people at the front of the line started to whoop and cheer, and some of the people in the Line for People Who Are Not Waiting In That Goddamned Line stepped forward and casually assimilated into the Goddamned Line. Nobody protested or complained, and Jason grabbed my arm and we followed suit, even though I cringed and died a little because holy crap, we just cut in line. We could go to jail! Imaginary Authority Figures! Noooo!
At this point I was still beyond baffled about The Line, because seriously, what's the point of getting someplace all early to stake out a spot in line if you aren't even going to defend that spot in line? Start a fight! Roll your eyes! Register a disgruntled HEY! Something!
But I decided that maaaaaybe it was time to Let It Go. Just a little bit, anyway.
I should back up and mention that the primary reason we decided to see Rent again was the return of two of the original cast members, and because I was able to get us third-row seats. They were too far over to the right side of the stage to be considered awesome, but still. Third row! We could actually see faces! We might get sweat on!
Ok. So the first two center rows of the orchestra section are sold for $20 right before the show in a lottery system. I knew about this, but never had the patience or the copious free weekends in New York to participate. And then -- this I did not know -- other unsold and "undesirable" seats get sold at a deep discount to anybody who didn't win a $20 seat. The majority of these undesirable seats are the close-in rows at the far ends of the theater. Next to our seats. Since we were total suckers to pay full price. Suckers! N00BS! Yuppie scum!
Whatever, I liked our seats. Some of the blocking on-stage meant we spent some scenes staring at people's backs, but hey, I can watch the movie at home. I came to see Mimi's ass in close-up and to see if she wears Spanx underneath those blue pants. (Negative. Hot damn!)
The problem with our seats were all the people sitting right around our seats. We were smack-dab in the middle of the crazy fanatic section. The woman next to me had seen the show 350 times. A few of them were planning to enter the lottery again that night. The girl behind me was breathlessly and EXTREMELY LOUDLY explaining every possible obstructed view we might encounter to two "virgins" behind her.
"WE'RE GOING TO MISS MIMI'S ENTRANCE BECAUSE SHE COMES IN RIGHT HERE BUT DON'T WORRY SHE COMES RIGHT UP TO THAT MICROPHONE LIKE TWO SECONDS LATER BUT WE WILL MISS IT RIGHT WHEN SHE WALKS ONSTAGE FOR THOSE TWO SECONDS BUT HEEEEE WE'LL GET A GREAT VIEW OF ROGER'S ASS YOU WILL KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT WHEN YOU SEE IT HEEEEEEE I WANT TO HAVE HIS BABIES."
At this, the woman next to me piped up that his wife might object to that, and then the entire group started chiming in about how beeeeeeautiful his wife was and she's soooooo sweeeeeet, what, you never met her? Oh, I met her. She's sooooo nice.
There's always something a little cringe-worthy about witnessing unabashed fandom like that -- when it's like listening to a toddler explain their favorite episode of Elmo's World but you know, coming from a fairly grown-up person. I was once completely obsessed with Les Miserables, but I was 12. And believed that only Eponine really understood me, what with that fucking popular rich girl Cosette stealing her crush and all.
At one point they all quibbled over who had fewer straight friends.
Anyway, the show finally started (one girl said it always starts about 10 minutes late, but was quickly corrected by someone else who said no, seven minutes late), and the girl behind me promptly burst into tears. She cried through most of the first act, and then screeched out I LOVE YOU!!!to Anth0ny when he stepped close to our seats to deliver a line. Anytime Anth0ny or Ad@am did anything, half the audience erupted into ear-splitting screams. It was bedlam. They were rock stars. They were the Beatles. (The poor girl from American Idol was all, "Fuck, man, I bet Frenchie Davis didn't get upstaged like this.)
The thing is, they were amazing. If you haven't seen the show...oh man. RUN. DON'T WALK. Particularly if you can see the current cast. I cried through most of the second act -- not the blubbery omg squee sobs of the girl behind me, but just a sort of constant leaking from my eyeballs that I could not control. I noticed the one other guy in our section wiping his eyes several times. Jason turned to me after a couple songs and simply mouthed the word "WOW."
In the end, though, we were the only ones sniffling. The fans around us were too preoccupied with getting the standing ovation started (standing up before the final notes of the show were even over) and then hightailing it outside to wait for autographs. And I wondered how effective the show could possibly be after 25, 50 or 350 times. At what point do you stop seeing the story and hearing the songs and start only seeing the tiny mistakes in timing and hearing the missed notes?
Maybe never? Or maybe around the same time you find yourself arguing over whether John or Frank or Harry was the better conductor with somebody during intermission?
I think twice is enough for me, though.