“To apathy, to entropy, to empathy, ecstasy
Vaclav Havel, the Sex Pistols, 8BC
To no shame, never playing the fame game
To sodomy, it’s between God and me
Written by Jonathan Larson
Produced by Rob Cavallo
Taken from the album Rent: Original Soundtrack
In my final year of school, we had to perform a scene from a musical for one of our assignments. Drama was not exactly a high priority in our school, the facilities were shit, the whole thing was very B-grade. I think the concept was to combine two musicals or something, but anyway, me and a group of four girls decided to mix the unbirthday scene of Disney’s Alice In Wonderland with ‘La Vie Boheme’ from Rent. The drama teacher really liked it and suggested we perform it on arts evening, and it became something of a defining moment in my high-school experience. It was nice to “go out with a bang” at the end of what had been a pretty shitty twelve years of school, and what better song to finish up with than this one?
‘La Vie Boheme’ is the centrepiece of Rent, the gigantic all-in showstopper. Essentially a huge list of themes and ideals and people and artworks that were close to the Bohemia movement of late-nineties Alphabet City, it is a manifesto for a way of thinking that has all but died out since. With plenty of references to the fight against AIDS, ‘La Vie Boheme’ is a time capsule wrapped in a catchy melody and delivered in the film by a historic cast featuring almost all of the original Broadway actors.
The ideals of ‘La Vie Boheme’ were pipe dreams and anachronistic in 2005, but that spirit is still there in this song, the feel of something important, a real movement, whether things worked out that way or not. Even without those surroundings, it’s one of the all-time great musical moments, one of those moments where music and drama and film and theatre all get so wound up together that for a few minutes you forget real life exists.
From the film: