33. Cast of 'Rent' - Seasons of Love

Broadway musicals polarize people.  Generally, you either love them or hate them, much like Howard Stern or Kate Gosselin.  I happen to really enjoy them, and if I lived in New York, would frequent them often.  Planning for a trip to New York in the fall of 1997, I wanted to see a musical and checked to see what was playing.  The one that caught my eye was the Tony winner from the previous year called Rent.  This was just as Rent was starting to explode as "the" Broadway musical to see, and a national tour had just started.  I got pretty good tickets and waited as patiently as I could until show time.

 When I finally went to New York, I saw Rent near the end of the trip and was awestruck.  The story was a modern retelling of La Boheme, set in New York's own lower East Side.  The cast was of people my own age dealing with the challenges of life approaching the new millennium - job, love life (straight and gay), friends, AIDS, intellectual freedom and more.  Now to be honest, I wouldn't have fit in very well with this crowd, I think.  I'm more of a suburbs kind of guy and they're lower East Siders, but I could still relate.  The storyline, music and acting were all stellar.  I left the theater with inspired.  I started thinking that I needed to start writing more because I had something to say, too.  And I did.  This blog is an extension of what started more than a dozen years ago.

After loving the play so much, I read about its creator, Jonathan Larson.  His story was equally touching and tragic.  He created this masterpiece that would go on to be seen on every continent save Antarctica and enjoyed by tens of millions.  But the tragic part is that he never lived to see it.  Jonathan Larson died of an aortic dissection of the heart the day before Rent was to have its premiere public performance.  He won both the Tony and a Pulitzer Price posthumously for Rent.  While reading about the heartbreaking loss that his family as well as cast and crew of Rent suffered, I also came across uplifting stories about how they were all living their lives in the wake of their tremendous grief:  live and love as if each day were your last.  I've always lived my life by a similar credo, but now I had a song to go with it - "Seasons of Love."

The song opens the second act of the play and opens the 2005 movie based on it.  It's a tone setter, without a doubt.  It's a gospel song for a generation who feels like God is taking a big, long coffee break.  Starting out with a simple repeated piano refrain, the characters begin breaking down a year in our collective life.  When you add the organ, it really does feel like a gospel song.  With a simple drum beat and matching bass line, the vocals then become the focal point of the song, as they are in every gospel song.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.  

That's how a year breaks down.  It seems like a lot until you realize that you just lost sixty of them watching "The Bachelor", arguing with your girlfriend or reading People magazine.  Don't get me wrong or think I'm Napoleon on my high horse.  I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to wasting time.  I wish I could say that I've lived every day - every year, to the fullest.  I haven't.  Chances are, you haven't either.  But tomorrow gives us another chance to start over and get things right.  But how do we total up the sum of all those yesterdays, tomorrows and todays?  Jonathan Larson wants to know.  What's the best way to take account of the past?

How do you measure a year?
In daylights? In sunsets ?
In midnights? In cups of coffee?

In inches? In miles?
In laughter? In strife?

What are the things that define us and our time on this planet?  What it all comes down to, for me, is at the end of it all, was the world left better or worse because of your impact on it?  Sure, it's a heavy thought, especially after that latte and the People magazine about Lindsay Lohan, but if you don't think about it, there end up being more Starbucks/Reality TV days than you'd like to admit.  In "Seasons of Love," the song builds up in intensity, adding some guitar as they head to the chorus.  The chorus itself is direct.  Jonathan Larson makes one simple suggestion:

How about love?

It's not a revolutionary concept, and it's been presented by countless others, including The Beatles with "All You Need Is Love."  But this is an anthem for my generation.  Love is the perfect measuring stick for the worthiness of a life, in my opinion.  From Jesus to Lennon & McCartney, love is their fist commandment.  As hippy as it sounds, it's true.  But it's not just the ethereal "I love everybody, man."  It's the kind of love that people know about.  It's the kind of love where if somebody were to ask someone you loved if they were loved, your name would come up quickly and often.  It's the proactive love of daily living.  To really love someone is hard work that leaves an impression on the person loved.  In other words, if you really love someone, they have to know it.

As a husband and father of two young sons, I think I'm lucky in this regard.  I have an opportunity every day - almost every minute, to have my life measured in love.  I'm given countless opportunities to love my wife and children by both words and actions.  Thankfully, if you were to ask any of them how I loved them, there would be numerous examples for them to choose from. 

It's not how much money or power you have that defines you as a person, it's the imprint that you leave behind every day.  Money and power can (and do) leave an imprint, but if the motivation wasn't love, then it's the wrong kind of imprint.  That love can be the selfless love of all sorts of things:  your fellow humans, God (or gods), your country, the planet, your family - it doesn't matter.  As long as your life is rooted in love and then acting on it, you're making this world a better place.

So how am I going to measure the worth of a woman or a man? 

How about love?

The two videos for "Seasons of Love" are one from the 2005 motion picture and the other is a performance by the original Broadway cast, alongside the final Broadway cast.

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