The Inside Scoop on the Upcoming "Rent: Live" Special

The iconic 1990s musical Rent is the latest Broadway show to get the live treatment. Airing January 27, the star-studded cast includes Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen Johnson, Jordan Fisher as Mark Cohen, Tinashe as Mimi Marquez, and "RuPaul's Drag Race" contestant Valentina as Angel. Keala Settle of The Greatest Showman will also make an appearance to sing "Seasons of Love," and Sonya Tayeh will provide brand-new choreography. We caught up with ensemble dancer Khori Petinaud to get the inside scoop on the movement—and why fans of the original will be super-satisfied with this version.


Khori Petinaud (photo by Delacruz Photography, courtesy Polk & Co.)

Tell us a little bit about the new choreography.

Sonya Tayeh is amazing. She has a really gritty, guttural perspective on movement in general, which is perfect for what Rent is and what it was originally. There are a lot of moments that serve as homage to the original ideas of the show, and there are parts that we're essentially replicating, but this new version incorporates the ensemble more and there's way more movement. Sonya's choreography is grounded and contemporary with a lot of '90s references. So it's a nice mixture of both.

What has the process been like?

I just finished working with Sonya on Moulin Rouge, the new musical that opened in Boston, and getting back into the studio with her is really awesome because it always feels like an exploratory space. We laugh a lot and we have a great time. Sonya's good at recognizing strengths in her dancers and expanding on them, so it's really fun to be a part of her creation process. She helps you find what she's looking for, but from your perspective. It always feels very unique to the people who are a part of it.

What does Rent mean to you as a performer?

Rent means so much to the theater community because it was kind of like the Hamilton of that time. Everybody knew about it and everybody wanted to be in it—so performing in it now feels like getting to be a part of something historical. It feels monumental and powerful, especially since the anniversary is coming up. When the show first premiered, NYC and the theater community were in a time of crisis. Now, it's a similar feeling in terms of the energy in the city, and I think the principles in Rent are very poignant right now in our country—which makes it even more impactful to be a part of this story.

How does the live aspect make rehearsals different?

Sonya had blueprints of what the soundstage was going to look like and started thinking about camera angles pretty early on. Since she's worked on "So You Think You Can Dance," she understands dance for camera. There were a lot of moments where she pulled out her iPad and tried to see what shots she wanted and how she wanted moments to translate on screen.

What are you most excited for people to see?

I'm most excited for people to see Sonya's interpretation of the show. It really honors Jonathan Larson's legacy, but she was also able to incorporate her own unique point of view. Rent lovers are going to see the things they want to see, of course, but they'll also get to see a new interpretation of the choreography, and a new way of integrating the ensemble into the show.

A version of this story appeared in the January 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Seasons of Love."

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