Rent fans are dying to know if Fox's TV version can sand up to the late Jonathan Larson's iconic Broadway play. Following live productions of Grease, The Passion, and A Christmas Story, from Fox this should be another insta-success — especially considering the young, mega-talented cast. One of the most influential characters, Angel, — a street performer and drag queen — is based on the character Schaunard in La Bohéme. So, who plays Angel in Rent: Live?
The Latinx competitor from Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Valentina — whose birth name is James Leyva — will take on the role of Angel in Fox's forthcoming adaptation to air live. In the play, Angel is the love interest of Tom Collins. Both are dealing with the diagnosis of AIDs and they find comfort and support in one another and also through the Life Support Group. Angel uses both male and female pronouns and fans have long-since debated whether the character is a transgender woman or a gay drag queen. At least in this version, Fox has cast a drag queen, and fans are ready for it. Personally, I think Valentina as Angel will raise the bar for the role for years to come.
Valentina received the Miss Congeniality crown on Season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race, and has a huge opening number as Angel with "Today 4 U." If you watched RuPaul's Drag Race, you may be biting your nails for any of Angel's numbers after Valentina forgot the words during a lip sync performance. Oops. Live TV doesn't allow for much error. Regardless, when it comes to representation, Valentina told UPI how important playing Angel is. "I just feel a responsibility to be a great example for people like me." She went on to say, "I'm landing a major role unapologetically as a triple minority. I'm gay, I'm Latino and I identify gender non-binary."
Aside from Rent: Live and RuPaul's Drag Race Valentina has been on shows liek Drag Tots, Hey, Qween!, and America's Next Top Model, to name a few. I think the casting of Valentina as Angel will bring a new perspective to the character. The rock musical, which has been going strong since '96 is about struggling artists impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early '90s in New York City. But it is as culturally relevant today as ever — especially the role of Angel who gives voices to underrepresented minorities.
Rent is a re-imagining of Puccini’s “La Bohème,” with themes of hope, friendship, and love. It's truly a must-see, whether that's through film, on Broadway, or live on Fox. In Sunday's version, Valentina will play opposite the talents of Brandon Victor Dixon, Jordan Fisher, Vanessa Hudgens, Tinashe, Mario, Keala Settle, Kierset Clemons, and Brennin Hunt. All of whom are hugely successful in their own right.
It's clear Valentina (or Levya) is a force to be reckoned with. Whether it's competing for RuPaul's approval or on stage as Angel in the shoes of the greats before her. Either way, at least you don't have to wait another five-hundred, twenty-nine thousand, six-hundred minutes until Rent: Live airs.
The three-hour musical event of Rent: Live airs on Fox, Sunday, Jan. 27, at 8 p.m. ET.