PictureI wasn't expecting too much from this 1.78:1, MPEG-4/AVC 1080p encode because the actual lighting conditions would not have been ideal for setting up shots. How wrong I was though; this is an impressive transfer all round.
Colours are deep and vibrant with Mimi's blue lycra trousers, Angel's blood red Christmas outfit and Maureen's multi coloured top coming across particularly well. Most of the other colours are somewhat muted but that simply fits into the themes which Rent is trying to portray.
Blacks are incredibly deep yet still offer up some good shadow detail. When the camera does pull back it is easy to pick out people or structures lurking in the background of the stage and this does add some depth to the proceedings but, understandably, not as much as perhaps some recent premier film releases have done. Whites are solid and contained in their borders and there is a good contrast range from one end of the spectrum to the other.
The print is in excellent shape and there is no sign of any encoding errors at all, with enhancement and noise, even in some of the darker scenes, nowhere to be found. Fine detail is exemplary with clothing and skin pores coming across well. Skin tones are a little over saturated but this is more down to the make-up applied to the actors more than anything else.
SoundRent: Live has a deep and detailed 5.1 Dolby Digital TrueHD track and it does complete justice to the efforts the actors put into their parts. A musical production such as this will stand or fall on the audio track and this pretty much stands tall and proud.
The track has good tonal range from the quieter lows to the high pitch singing of Gwen Stewart when singing Seasons of Love. The small band which provide the music for the players to sing against does seem a little distant at times with the main focus of the audio firmly rooted in the vocals.
Surrounds are simply used for ambiance when the watching crowd burst into applause, apart from that it's all up front and this is only the better for it. That stage is wide with little panning and the thrust of the audio mainly coming from the centre channel. It is a little difficult to see what more could have been done with the audio, perhaps some extra detail in the backing score but apart from that this is what would you would expect from a theatrical production.
- Rent: The Final Days On Broadway. - 0:36:56 - MPEG-2 - 1080p
A number of the cast and crew having their own say on the musical over the years and this, the final performance on Broadway. Some rehearsals are shown, and most of the participants obviously relate most of their stories back to Jonathon Larson and how this production has changed their lives for the better. Jonathon's parents appear for the final showing and obviously feel very proud of their son for creating a musical that has touched so many people. As can be the case in theatre this often descends into an emotional affair.
- The Final Curtain Call. - 0:08:11 - MPEG-2/1080p
Some of the original Rent cast members back stage as the very final song is sung on stage. They reappear with the current cast members to sing Seasons of Love and take that final curtain call. This has no commentary, no voice over, so just sit back and watch.
- Home. - 0:06:51 - MPEG-2/1080p
More of the same to some degree with the same cast members again saying they find it difficult to think that Rent will no longer be on Broadway. However the majority of this concerns itself with the theatre they were performing in.
- The Wall. - 0:06:00 - MPEG-2/1080p
The wall by the theatre has been adorned with messages of thanks from some of the people who attended the performances. This short shows some of the messages on that wall and some of the people contributing.
- Casting. - 0:07:50 - MPEG-2/1080p
Bernard Telsey, casting director for Rent since 1996 discussing how many people have auditioned for the various roles in the musical throughout the years. The kind of people he was looking for and how casting was a little difficult to begin with because the musical was unknown, Larson himself was unheard of and the director had never been at the helm of a Broadway musical before.
- The Final Lottery. - 0:09:02 - MPEG-2/1080p
Fans have always been given the opportunity to enter a lottery to 'win' $20.00 tickets for the first two rows of every show and this short featurette shows some of those eager fans trying their luck for the final shows of 2008. There are some brief interviews with those fans.
- National Marfan Foundation PSA. - 0:01:02 - MPEG-2/480i
A brief public service announcement for the foundation which offers help and advice to sufferers of this life threatening condition.
- Jonathon Larson Performing Arts Foundation PSA. - 0:05:53 - MPEG-2/480i
The foundation set up by Larson's family to help up and coming artists.
The extras on this disc are not quite as enjoyable as those included in the movie version. The documentary on that earlier version eclipses anything we have here and it's a pity it could not be included here as well. Yes there's some interesting pieces from the cast members and producers but nothing that really sticks in the mind after watching. There are a number of standard trailers and BD-Live functionality which is not worth looking at. Please also note that there are some audio anomalies in the last extra; the short feature on the Arts Foundation.
VerdictRent the film and Rent:Live on Broadway are both enjoyable in their own right, but this is by far the grown up version and the one which ultimately will get re-watched in this house. The 2005 film is a good introduction but is simply the starter for this main course.
The musical is a good watch, fantastic characters and some superb songs to get into. I enjoy this every single time I watch it and to date have in fact seen it a number of times. I acknowledge that musicals are not everyone's cup of tea but I do feel you are missing out if you don't at least give this a watch.
The video is excellent and the audio good enough, but perhaps could have been just a touch better in the background. Still it's it's the players, and their songs, who get the point across and all of the musical numbers do sound good indeed. The extras are not quite as good as the film version but I still have to recommend this once again. I've said it before though and I'll say it again... I'm certainly going to get to see this for real one day.
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- Rent: The Final Days On Broadway. - 0:36:56 - MPEG-2 - 1080p