5:21pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
How 'Rent' Handled Its Star's Broken Foot
Producers behind Fox's Rent musical had to scramble ahead of Sunday's live broadcast to accommodate their injured star.
Actor-musician Brennin Hunt, who plays one of the male leads, Roger, suffered what he called a broken right foot near the end of the three-hour dress rehearsal on Saturday. The network and producers — including the family of late Rent creator Jonathan Larson — insisted in a statement Sunday afternoon that the show would go on. In a video posted to his Instagram account minutes before Rent live was poised to begin, Hunt revealed that the production was altering his costume as he was set to take the stage with a massive cast covering his right foot and ankle. "They’ve showered me with love and kindness, which is the essence of this musical," Hunt said in the video.
As was the case with Fox's 2016 live rendition of Grease, the back-up plan called for using footage from Saturday's dress rehearsal and intercutting it with live scenes. Hunt, who was rushed to the hospital following the end of Saturday's rehearsal, took the stage Sunday for the live broadcast. Unlike traditional Broadway shows, Fox does not have understudies for any of its live musical cast. Rent is a physically demanding musical with the Roger character, among others, involved in a lot of dancing and rushing up and down stairs across multiple sets.
Hunt opened the telecast with Roger's guitar solo in a scene that included a "previously recorded" note on the screen as Hunt wandered the stage, climbed stairs and jumped on tables ahead of his injury, which occurred before of the last act in Saturday's dress rehearsal. The prerecorded first act included Hunt's solo, "One Song Glory," and duet "Light My Candle," with Tinashe's Mimi.
Following the end of the first act, the entire cast — save for Hunt — was seen live to tell viewers that "much" of Fox's broadcast will come from Saturday's dress rehearsal. The stars revealed that the final scene of Sunday's broadcast will be "reworked" and performed live with Hunt as well as the stars from the original Broadway cast.
As Saturday's dress rehearsal was broadcast, Fox's Rent cast performed it in tandem with the telecast onstage for a new audience Sunday. Hunt is also onstage — in a wheelchair — as he does his best to perform less than 24 hours after breaking his foot. (See tweets from those in attendance for Sunday's performance, below.)
The final act of Sunday's televised broadcast was live (as signified by a "live" tag on-screen). Hunt was sitting atop the table from Mark and Roger's apartment, with his right foot in a sizable black cast propped up on a chair. With Hunt unable to walk around the stage, the cast worked around him to close out the show. Watch Hunt and Tinashe's performance of "Your Eyes," with the former's cast in clear view, below.
As in the rehearsal, the outtro included the stars of the original Rent Broadway cast — Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs and Anthony Rapp. Adam Pascal, who originated the role of Roger, joined Hunt during the finale version of "Seasons of Love," which was anchored by Menzel. (Watch, below.)
Stage director Michael Greif (Dear Evan Hansen) — who helmed Rent's original New York Theatre Workshop and Broadway productions — told the more than 1,000 assembled for the dress rehearsal Saturday that Hunt had rolled his ankle and wanted to complete the performance, which had 15 minutes remaining when the injury occurred. According to reporters from The Hollywood Reporter who were present, Hunt's injury occurred during the final commercial break and not while the actor-musician was on-stage.
Hunt, a Nashville musician who previously competed on Fox's The X Factor, returned to the stage following a nearly 30-minute delay. Executive producer Marc Platt and co-star Brandon Victor Dixon (who plays Tom) helped escort Hunt back onto the stage. Hunt was not putting any pressure on his right foot and declined to use crutches offered from a nearby production staffer. Producers shifted the stage direction for the final act so Hunt could sit atop a table placed at center stage — the main loft location in Rent — with his right foot propped up on a chair. Hunt completed the performance missing his right shoe as his ankle was swelling.
In keeping with Rent tradition, the central cast returned to the stage for a curtain call Saturday night to sing the musical's beloved "Seasons of Love." The stars of the Fox live performance were then joined by Rent's original Broadway cast, including Adam Pascal, who originated the role of Roger. Following the first verse of the song, Pascal and Rent live star Jordan Fisher (fellow male lead Mark) joined the injured Hunt near the table on the stage for the remainder of the song and instrumental outtro. Hunt appeared crestfallen and upset. He was helped off the stage by Platt and a stage manager and taken to the hospital.
Based on Larson's Tony-winning hit, Rent is a rock musical loosely based on La Boheme that tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York's East Village in the days of the Bohemian Alphabet City and under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. Larson died suddenly the night before Rent's off-Broadway debut. Julie Larson, sister of late composer, fielded multiple offers over the years to bring her brother's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical to the small screen, but it wasn't until super-producer Platt (La La Land, Fox's Grease Live) approached her for the second time — about two or three years ago — that it finally felt like the timing was right.
"The experience of putting together this beautiful new production of my brother’s work, while emotional, has been truly joyous for all of us," Julie Larson said in a statement Sunday afternoon. "This new cast has embodied the spirit of the show from day one and they embraced Brennin with positive and uplifting love in his moment of need. Rent has always been about resilience and community. I speak from my heart when I say that we have a spectacular show for you tonight. We can’t wait for a new generation to experience Jonathan’s legacy.”