no day like yesterday

Why Rent: Live Wasn’t Actually Live

Jordan Fisher and Brennin Hunt. Photo: Ray Mickshaw/Fox

On Sunday night, Fox had promised to air a live staging of Rent, but after a cast member was injured, the network decided to air footage from a dress rehearsal instead, up until the closing moments of the show. Brennin Hunt, the former X-Factor contestant and country singer who was playing Roger, broke his foot during the second act of a dress rehearsal the previous night. Fox, according to The Hollywood Reporter, hadn’t hired understudies for the show, and decided to instead air footage from the dress rehearsal for most of Sunday night’s broadcast, up until the last scenes of the performance, where Hunt appeared with his foot in a cast.

Hunt broke his foot running down the stairs to make a quick change that was supposed to happen during a commercial break after “What You Own.” “We have to run the scaffolding, down two flights of stairs,” Hunt said in an interview with TVLine. “And on that second flight of stairs, when I jumped off and was turning the corner, my right foot just rolled on top and the top bone of my arch snapped.” Hunt said Rent: Live’s executive producer Marc Platt came to the ER with him as they waited on a CT scan, which revealed that his foot was broken and “if I put any pressure on it, I’ll have to have surgery.” According to Hunt, Platt insisted that “We’re protecting you, and it’s not worth it [to risk further injury]. We’ll figure it out.”

During a commercial break in the first act of Sunday’s broadcast, the Rent: Live cast briefly addressed Hunt’s injury in a prerecorded statement. “Last night during our performance in front of a live audience, one of our cast members sustained an injury,” said Vanessa Hudgens, who played Maureen. “A visit to the hospital confirmed that Brennin Hunt, our Roger, broke his foot and will be unable to perform tonight.” “But Rent has always been about community, resiliency and bouncing back, so the show must go on,” continued Valentina, who played Angel. Jordan Fisher, who played Mark, finished: “Most of what you’ll see tonight comes from last night’s performance, but we have all rallied together to rework the final act so all of us can perform it for you live.”

When Sunday’s broadcast began, it aired with footage labeled “previously recorded” until near the end of the second act. But meanwhile, those who had tickets to see the live performance in person saw a stripped-down version with Hunt in a wheelchair, which Fox decided to stage but not air. “Because Brennin couldn’t perform any of the choreography, it wasn’t feasible to re-script the whole show,” cameraperson Dylan Sanford wrote in a tweet Sunday, later adding, “BUT, the producers & cast wanted to do SOMETHING for the 1000+ audience members on the stage tonight. SO, the full cast (Brennin included, in a wheelchair) effectively did a high energy table read with live vocals & the band doing their best to synchronize to the broadcast.”

“We came out for Act II and pretty much performed, in concert style for that live audience, while the broadcast was going on in sync,” Hunt told TVLine. “We were just improvising. And it turned out to be such a beautiful evening. I’m so glad that they captured it, because there were so many beautiful moments from last night. I hope that they release all of that at some point.”

Fox representatives haven’t clarified why, exactly, the network decided to substitute a substantial portion of the live show with prerecorded footage instead of staging the modified “table read” or casting an understudy in the first place. According to Deadline, Fox had a similar plan in place when rain in Los Angeles threatened outdoor scenes in Grease: Live. NBC, on the other hand, has cast understudies in its live musical productions, such as The Sound of Music Live!, Peter Pan Live!, Hairspray Live!, and Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. “Most of what you’ll see tonight will come from last night’s performance, but we’re going to go live for the final act,” Fox representatives reiterated in a statement to Vulture during Sunday’s broadcast. “Brennin will be here, and will be joined by the original Broadway cast of Rent. In the words of Jonathan Larson, ‘No day but today.’” Julie Larson, Jonathan’s sister, gave a statement to the New York Times in which she said, “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.”

Why Rent: Live Wasn’t Actually Live