As my first legitimate post I figured I'd post this. I originally wrote this last spring and published it under my Facebook Notes but figured that since Christmas has just recently passed and I also mention New Years as well, it is an appropriate choice. I was inspired to write about one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite musicals and how this character represents the true meaning of Christmas.
Warning: This note is more so for those who are familiar with the concepts and storyline of the musical RENT. I’d love for anyone to read this but just a warning that it may contain spoilers. Also keep in mind that I don’t consider myself a Renthead because I just got into it a few weeks ago so if I get some facts wrong I apologize!
It has recently occurred to me that the phenomenon musical RENT is indeed a Christmas play and movie just as much as Charles Dickens’ specialty is. Think about it. It begins on Christmas Eve and ends on Christmas Eve a year later. In the theater production, the characters sing various Christmas carols, including Jonathan Larson’s original song “Christmas Bells.” Though it would not be considered one of them jolly Christmas jingles, it is still there. Plus, there are various Christmas morals of happiness suggesting family togetherness, living life to the fullest, and just trying to make the best out of the worst possible circumstances. What I want to know is when is RENT going to become a Christmas special on ABC in the running with Rudolph, the Grinch, and Frosty? I think it would be interesting to watch Idina Menzel moo in RENT a week before Christmas Eve instead of watching Jim Carrey steal Christmas. LOL. Nothing against How the Grinch Stole Christmas, for I happen to enjoy Jim Carrey’s portrayal of the Grinch and the movie itself, but it would be nice to have RENT in the lineup for the 12 Days of Christmas. I’m just saying. :) Though one would probably not think of RENT as a family-friendly film considering the various adult references. But I say, what is wrong with a little catering to the adults of the world?
Okay so I seem to be going a little off topic. So I have already established that I find RENT to be a Christmas production. That being said, why not believe that Larson had intended for his character Angel Dumott Schunard to represent his namesake, a legitimate guardian “angel,” a symbol of Christmas. I definitely feel like there is much more to him symbolically than what meets the eye. For those of you who do not know who Angel is, the following is a brief description of him in a nutshell: He is a homosexual drag queen who prefers female pronouns and has a keen ability to bust a move in heels. She hangs out in a tree playing a drum that looks more like a white plastic bucket, falls for fellow lead character Tom Collins after rescuing him from the street after he is mugged, kills Benny’s dog (without knowing it was Benny’s) by driving the dog crazy with her drum playing to the point where the dog makes a excitable jump from the third story of a building. This is all for a rich lady who randomly shows up in a limousine complaining about how the canine’s constant barking have kept her from her slumber. Phew. Try to say all that in one breath.
Also, like a majority of the characters, she also suffers from AIDS.
Regardless of this disease, Angel is one of the more joyful characters (after all, isn’t Christmas the season of joy?) in the production while the others pout about the doom and gloom of poor living conditions, AIDS, and relationship issues. In fact, the best relationship the story has to offer is the relationship between Angel and Collins, which seemingly has no visible flaws and is very heartwarming.
When the other characters begin to split apart, hence the term “rent” being a huge theme in the production, she is the optimistic glue that holds them together, especially in the New Year scene when all of the couples begin to argue and she encourages them to form a clean slate. Even take the scene where Angel first meets Collins. She did not have to help a total stranger, and yet she did. She, Angel, Collins’ “guardian angel,” represents what Christmas is all about.
What had me begin thinking about Angel symbolizing an actual angel is when I saw one particular scene: Contact. Look it up on Youtube. That is how I saw and heard it. It is basically the scene when Angel expires from AIDS. Cut out the various sexual innuendos and orgasmic moans and you get a very spiritual moment. We find Angel standing above a flowing white sheet dressed in white (the proper angel attire in my opinion), thus giving the illusion that she is ascending into heaven. “Take me! Take me!” she repetitively cries, and we can only assume she is crying for the assistance of a higher power. However, the sexual innuendos do serve a point, for once Angel's solo occurs, the rest of the cast, unsatisfied with their night of pleasure, claim, “It’s Over,” between them, to which Collins responds, “It’s Over,” meaning Angel has lost her battle with AIDS. Notice how as soon as she finishes singing to God the rest of the couples break apart and from then on the show takes an even more depressing turn and the friends go their separate ways. Angel’s death is the “rent."
I chose to write about Angel because I find her to be one of those very inspirational and complex (in a good way) characters that you just have to analyze. She has these many qualities and associations and seems to cover a more entertaining background throughout the show in comparison to the rest of the characters who seem to travel an unchanging wave. The way her character deteriorates as she perishes and how the rest of the cast is affected once their solid rock, their “angel,” is gone, is phenomenal. She is the piece of the puzzle to move the story along and seems to do so more than the lead characters, which is ironic for she is a subplot to the Roger and Mimi love story.
Nonetheless, Angel remains to be the group’s link to each other even after death when lead character Mark Cohen cures his “filmer’s block” (play on writer’s block) and dedicates his film to her and their friends’ lives in the past year. She is the angel who helps reunite a family once again. As you can see, Angel Dumott Schunard represents practically every aspect of what the Christmas season should be.