The Measure of a Musical

The lyrics from Rent can apply to almost anything life throws at you

The Measure of a Musical
Young Kwak
The cast of Lake City Playhouse's 2011 production of Rent.

Reading the lyrics from nearly any musical can feel pretty ridiculous. There's always someone singing about true love after a one-minute meeting, or how the sun is shining and so they have to dance. Even Rent, although progressive upon its debut, isn't immune to some level of cheese. And yet we love it.

After debuting on Broadway in 1996, it was hailed as the rock musical for the MTV generation. From the sappy story to its young playwright, Jonathan Larson, who died one day before opening night, everything about the rocking musical was Generation X personified. Loosely based on Puccini's tragic opera La bohème, Rent follows the lives of poor, artistic types, many of whom are HIV positive, in late 1980s New York. The show netted the Tony for Best Musical and a Pulitzer and also catapulted the careers of Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs. It's still performed all around the world year after year, including at the Bing Crosby Theater this weekend.

Here are some of the show's choice lyrics to apply to various life situations:

How to best count the passing of time

"In daylights, in sunsets / In midnights, in cups of coffee / In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife / In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes / How do you measure, a year in the life?" — from "Seasons of Love"

This is the best song (that piano, that gospel soloist) in the show, even if its math doesn't exactly add up.

When your beauty is just not your fault

"Every single day / I walk down the street / I hear people say "Baby" so sweet / Ever since puberty / Everybody stares at me / Boys, girls / I can't help it baby." — from "Take Me Or Leave Me"

These are problems most of us just don't have to deal with.

What to do at midnight

"What's the time? / Well it's gotta be close to midnight / My body's talking to me / It says, Time for danger / It says, I wanna commit a crime / Wanna be the cause of a fight / I wanna put on a tight skirt / And flirt with a stranger." — from "Out Tonight"

Or you could just go out for drinks like normal people.

Hook up or not?

"There's only us / Only tonight / We must let go to know what's right / No other course / No other way / No day but today... My only goal / Is just — to be / There's only now / Give in to love." — from "Another Day"

What men have been saying for centuries to get women into bed.

When deciding whether to pay your rent

"Last year's rent / This year's rent / Next year's rent / Rent rent rent rent rent / We're Not Gonna Pay Rent!" — from "Rent"

But it's always a better idea to pay your rent.

Other real-life questions Rent poses

"If you're so smart / Then tell me why do you need smack?" — from "Another Day"

"Then why choose fear? / I'm a New Yorker / Fear's my life" — from "Life Support"♦

The Modern Theater and Friends of the Bing present Rent • Fri-Sat, Dec. 26-27, at 8 pm • $25 • The Bing Crosby Theater • 901 W. Sprague • • 227-7638

James Allen: Excavating Books @ Bryan Oliver Gallery

Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 26
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About The Author

Laura Johnson

Laura moved to the great Inland Pacific Northwest this summer. She is the Inlander's new music editor.