Original Broadway window card
|Basis||Giacomo Puccini's opera
1996 US National Tour
1998 West End
1999 Mexico City
2001 UK Tour
2003 West End revival
2007 West End revival
2008 Buenos Aires
2008 Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway
2009 U.S. National Tour
2010 New Zealand
2010 Hollywood Bowl
2010 Lima, Peru
2011 Off-Broadway Revival
2012 Off-West End revival
2013 UK Tour
|Awards||Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book
Tony Award for Best Score
Drama Desk Outstanding Musical
Drama Desk for Outstanding Book
Rent is a rock musical with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York City's Lower East Side in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
The musical was first seen in a limited three-week workshop production at New York Theatre Workshop in 1994. This same off-Broadway theatre was also the musical's initial home following its official January 25, 1996 opening. The show's creator, Jonathan Larson, died suddenly the night before the off-Broadway premiere. The show won a Pulitzer Prize, and the production was a hit. The musical moved to Broadway's larger Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996.
On Broadway, Rent gained critical acclaim and won a Tony Award for Best Musical among other awards. The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008 after a 12-year run of 5,123 performances, the ninth longest-running Broadway show at the time. The production grossed over $280 million.
The success of the show led to several national tours and numerous foreign productions. In 2005 it was adapted into a motion picture featuring most of the original cast members.
- 1 Concept and genesis
- 2 Sources and inspiration
- 3 Musical numbers
- 4 Synopsis
- 5 Characters
- 6 Productions
- 6.1 New York workshops and off-Broadway production
- 6.2 Original Broadway production
- 6.3 Early North American tours
- 6.4 2000 Irish production
- 6.5 2002-2003 Swedish production
- 6.6 2005–2008 U.S. touring companies
- 6.7 UK productions
- 6.8 Rent: School Edition
- 6.9 Rent Remixed
- 6.10 Australia 1999
- 6.11 2005–2006 International tour
- 6.12 2009 U.S. National tour
- 6.13 2010 Hollywood Bowl
- 6.14 2011 Off-Broadway revival
- 6.15 International productions
- 6.16 Rent in repertory with La Bohème
- 6.17 Current licensing
- 7 Cultural impact and legacy
- 8 Cast
- 9 Recordings and adaptations
- 10 Awards and nominations
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Concept and genesis
In 1988, playwright Billy Aronson wanted to create "a musical based on Puccini's La Bohème, in which the luscious splendor of Puccini's world would be replaced with the coarseness and noise of modern New York." In 1989 Jonathan Larson, a 29-year-old composer, began collaborating with Aronson on this project, and the two composed a few songs together, including "Santa Fe", "Splatter" (later re-worked into the song "Rent"), and "I Should Tell You". Larson made the suggestion to set the play in the East Village, the artsy avant-garde neighborhood of Manhattan down the street from his Greenwich Village apartment, and also came up with the show's ultimate title (a decision that Aronson was unhappy with, at least until Larson pointed out that "rent" also means torn apart.). In 1991, he asked Aronson if he could use Aronson's original concept and make Rent his own. Larson had ambitious expectations for Rent; his ultimate dream was to write a rock opera "to bring musical theater to the MTV generation." Aronson and Larson made an agreement that if the show went to Broadway, Aronson would share in the proceeds.
Jonathan Larson focused on composing Rent in the early 1990s, waiting tables at the Moondance Diner to support himself. Over the course of seven years, Larson wrote hundreds of songs and made many drastic changes to the show, which in its final incarnation contained 42 songs. In the fall of 1992, Larson approached James Nicola, artistic director of New York Theatre Workshop, with a tape and copy of Rent's script. When Rent had its first staged reading at New York Theatre Workshop in March 1993, it became evident that, despite its very promising material and moving musical numbers, many structural problems needed to be addressed including its cumbersome length and overly complex plot.
As of 1994, the New York Theatre Workshop version of Rent featured songs that never made it to the final version, such as "You're A Fool", "Voice Mail #4", "Come To The Meeting", "Open Road", the predecessor of "What You Own"; "He Says", "On The Street #1-3", "You'll Get Over It", the predecessor of "Tango: Maureen," featuring Mark and Maureen; "Right Brain", later rewritten as "One Song Glory", featuring Roger; "Do A Little Business", the predecessor of "You'll See," featuring Benny, Mark, Roger, Collins, and Angel; "Female to Female A & B," featuring Maureen and Joanne; and "Real Estate", a number wherein Benny tries to convince Mark to become a real estate agent and drop his filmmaking. This workshop version of Rent starred Anthony Rapp as Mark and Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi. Larson continued to work on Rent, gradually reworking its flaws and staging more workshop productions.
On January 24, 1996, after the musical's final dress rehearsal before its off-Broadway opening, Larson enjoyed his first (and only) newspaper interview with music critic Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times, attracted by the coincidence that the show was debuting exactly 100 years after Puccini's opera. Larson would not live to see Rent's success; he died from an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm (believed to have resulted from Marfan syndrome) in the early morning of January 25, 1996. The first preview of Rent was canceled and instead, friends and family gathered at the theater where the actors performed a sing-through of Rent in Larson's memory. The show premiered as planned and quickly gained popularity fueled by enthusiastic reviews and the recent death of its composer. It proved extremely successful during its off-Broadway run, selling out all its shows at the 150-seat New York Theatre Workshop. Due to such overwhelming popularity and a need for a larger theater, Rent moved to Broadway's previously derelict Nederlander Theatre on 41st Street on April 29, 1996.
Sources and inspiration
Larson's inspiration for Rent's content came from several different sources. Many of the characters and plot elements are drawn directly from Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème, the world premiere of which was in 1896, a century before Rent's premiere. La bohème was also about the lives of poor young artists. Tuberculosis, the plague of Puccini's opera, is replaced by HIV/AIDS in Rent; 1800s Paris is replaced by New York's East Village in the late 1980s or early 1990s. The names and identities of Rent's characters also heavily reflect Puccini's original characters, though they are not all direct adaptations. For example, Joanne in Rent represents the character of Alcindoro in Bohème, but is also partially based on Marcello. Also, Joanne is the only Rent character whose predecessor in La bohème is the opposite sex.
|Mimi, a seamstress with tuberculosis||Mimi Márquez, an erotic dancer with HIV and is Roger's girlfriend|
|Rodolfo, a poet||Roger Davis, a songwriter-musician who is HIV positive and Mimi's boyfriend|
|Marcello, a painter||Mark Cohen, an independent Jewish filmmaker and Roger's roommate|
|Musetta, a singer||Maureen Johnson, a lesbian performance artist and is Joanne's girlfriend|
|Schaunard, a musician||Angel Dumott Schunard, a trans* percussionist with AIDS, who is Collins' boyfriend|
|Colline, a philosopher||Tom Collins, a gay, part-time philosophy professor at New York University and anarchist with AIDS and boyfriend of Angel|
|Alcindoro, a state councilor||Joanne Jefferson, a lesbian lawyer, who is Maureen's girlfriend (Also partially based on Marcello)|
|Benoit, a landlord||Benjamin 'Benny' Coffin III, the local landlord and a former roommate of Roger, Mark, Collins, and Maureen|
Other examples of parallels between Larson's and Puccini's work include Larson's song "Light My Candle", which is nearly identical to the first scene between Mimi and Rodolfo in La Bohème; "Quando me'n vo'" ("Musetta's Waltz"), a melody taken directly from Puccini's opera; and "Goodbye Love", a long, painful piece that reflects a confrontation and parting between characters in both Puccini's and Larson's work. "Quando me'n vo'" is paralleled in the first verse of "Take Me or Leave Me," when Maureen describes the way people stare when she walks in the street. It is also directly referred to in the scene where the characters are celebrating their bohemian life. Mark says, "Roger will attempt to write a bittersweet, evocative song..." Roger plays a quick piece, and Mark adds, "...that doesn't remind us of 'Musetta's Waltz'."
Rent is also a somewhat autobiographical work, as Larson incorporated many elements of his life into his show. Larson lived in New York for many years as a starving artist with an uncertain future. He sacrificed a life of stability for his art, and shared many of the same hopes and fears as his characters. Like his characters he endured poor living conditions, and some of these conditions (e.g. illegal wood-burning stove, bathtub in the middle of his kitchen, broken buzzer [his guests had to call from the pay phone across the street and he would throw down the keys, as in "Rent"]) made their way into the play. Part of the motivation behind the storyline in which Maureen leaves Mark for a woman (Joanne) is based on the fact that Larson's own girlfriend left him for a woman. The Mark Cohen character is based on Larson's friend, documentary filmmaker Eddie Rosenstein.
The line, "I'm more of a man than you'll ever be... and more of a woman than you'll ever get!", attributed to Angel Dumott Schunard at her funeral, was previously used by the character Hollywood Montrose, who appeared in the films Mannequin (1987) and Mannequin Two: On the Move (1991). Like Angel, Hollywood is a performs a song and dance number and sometimes wears women's clothing, although Angel is a trans* woman and he is a homosexual man; however, the line was originally in the film Car Wash (1976), delivered by Antonio Fargas as a flamboyant homosexual cross dresser.
The earliest concepts of the characters differ largely from the finished products. Everyone except Mark had AIDS, including Maureen and Joanne; Maureen was a serious, angry character who played off Oedipus in her performance piece instead of Hey Diddle Diddle; Mark was, at one point, a painter instead of a filmmaker; Roger was named Ralph and wrote musical plays; Angel was a jazz philosopher, while Collins was a street performer; Angel and Collins were both originally described as Caucasian; and Benny had a somewhat enlarged role in the story, taking part in songs like "Real Estate", which was later cut.
Many actual locations and events are included in, or are the inspiration for, elements of the musical. The Life Café, where the "La Vie Boheme" numbers are set, was an actual restaurant (closed 2013) on 10th Street and Avenue B in the East Village of New York City. The riot at the end of the first act is based on the East Village conflicts of the late 1980s that arose as a result of the city-imposed curfew in Tompkins Square Park.
"Will I?", a song which takes place during a Life Support meeting and expresses the pain and fear of living a life with AIDS, was inspired by a real event. Larson attended a meeting of Friends in Deed, an organization that helps people deal with illness and grief, much like Life Support. After that first time, Larson attended the meetings regularly. During one meeting, a man stood up and said that he was not afraid of dying. He did say, however, that there was one thing of which he was afraid: Would he lose his dignity? From this question stemmed the first line in the single stanza of this song. The people present at the Life Support meeting in the show, such as Gordon, Ali, and Pam carry the names of Larson's friends who died of AIDS. In the Broadway show, the names of the characters in that particular scene (they introduce themselves) are changed nightly to honor the friends of the cast members who are living with or have died from AIDS.
The scene and song "Life Support" was also based on Friends in Deed, as well as on Gordon, Pam, and Ali. Originally, the members of Life Support had a solid block of the "forget regret" refrain, and they talked about remembering love. When Jonathan's HIV positive friends heard this scene, they told him that having AIDS was not so easy to accept: it made you angry and resentful too, and the song did not match that. Jonathan then added a part where Gordon says that he has a problem with this "credo...my T-cells are low, I regret that news, okay?" Paul, the leader of the meeting, replies, "Okay...but, Gordon, how do you feel today?" Gordon admits that he is feeling the best that he has felt all year. Paul asks, "Then why choose fear?" Gordon says, "I'm a New Yorker. Fear's my life."
Lynn Thomson controversy
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2014)|
Lynn Thomson was a dramaturg who was hired by New York Theatre Workshop to help rework Rent. She claimed that between early May and the end of October 1995, she and Larson co-wrote a "new version" of the musical. She sued the Larson estate for $40 million USD and sought 16% of the show's royalties, claiming she had written a significant portion of the lyrics and the libretto of the "new version" of Rent.
During the trial, Thomson could not recall the lyrics to the songs that she allegedly wrote, nor the structures of the libretto she claimed to have created. The judge ruled against her and gave the Jonathan Larson Estate full credit and right to Rent. A federal appellate court upheld the original ruling on appeal. In August 1998, the case was settled out of court. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.[dead link]
||This section's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (July 2009)|
On Christmas Eve 1987, Mark Cohen, an aspiring filmmaker, begins a new documentary, as his roommate, Roger Davis, tunes up his guitar ("Tune Up #1") but they are quickly interrupted by a call from Mark's mother, who claims she was sorry to hear about his break-up with Maureen Johnson ("Voicemail #1"). Roger and Mark's friend Tom Collins, a gay anarchist and college professor, arrives at their building but is mugged. Meanwhile, Roger and Mark receive a call from their former friend and roommate Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III. Benny bought Mark and Roger's apartment building, as well as the lot next door after marrying into a wealthy family. He has plans to evict the homeless from the lot and build a Cyber Studio in its stead. He tells them last year's rent is due ("Tune Up #2"). The electrical power goes out. Mark and Roger refuse to pay their rent ("Rent"). Meanwhile, a drag queen named Angel Dumott Schunard finds Collins on the street and gets him on his feet ("You Okay Honey?"). The two are immediately attracted to each other, and learn that they are both HIV positive.
Mark tries to get Roger out of the apartment. Mark reveals that Roger has been living in withdrawal for the past year due to his girlfriend April's suicide after discovering they both had HIV. Mark leaves to find Collins after reminding Roger to take his AZT ("Tune Up #3"). Roger attempts to write a great song to make his mark on the world before he dies ("One Song Glory"). Their downstairs neighbor, an exotic dancer named Mimi Marquéz walks in, asking Roger to light a candle for her, only to continually blow it out as she flirts with him ("Light My Candle"). Though he feels attracted to her, Roger is reluctant to begin a new relationship.
Joanne Jefferson, a lawyer and Maureen's new girlfriend, receives a phone call from her parents, wondering why she is stage managing for Maureen's protest against Benny's new Cyber Studio ("Voicemail #2"). Angel, now in drag, and Collins arrive at the apartment bearing gifts. Collins introduces Angel to his friends and Angel tells how she earned $1,000 by causing a noisy Akita to jump to its death ("Today 4 U"). Benny arrives with an offer: if they convince Maureen to cancel her protest, he'll let them live in his new studio project, rent-free ("You'll See"). However, the two rebuff his offer. After Benny leaves, Angel and Collins invite Mark and Roger to attend a local HIV support group meeting.
Mark hurries off to help fix Maureen's sound equipment for the protest, only to run into Maureen's new girlfriend Joanne. They overcome the awkwardness of their meeting and connect over their feelings for Maureen ("Tango: Maureen"). Mark then enters into the support group meeting ("Life Support"). Meanwhile, Mimi attempts to seduce Roger ("Out Tonight") but Roger harshly rebuffs her ("Another Day"). After Mimi leaves, Roger admits to an empty apartment his fears about dying from AIDS while the life-support group echoes his thoughts ("Will I?").
Collins, Mark and Angel help a homeless woman who is being harassed by police officers. She then mocks Mark for trying to assuage his guilt ("On the Street"). Collins talks about his dream of escaping New York and opening up a restaurant in Santa Fe ("Santa Fe"). Soon after, Collins and Angel confess their love for each other ("I'll Cover You"). Joanne exasperatedly prepares for Maureen's show ("We're Okay").
Roger intercepts Mimi and apologizes for his behavior. He invites her to come to the protest and dinner with them, to which she agrees. Meanwhile, cops, vendors, and the people from the streets gather to watch the protest ("Christmas Bells").
Maureen arrives and begins her performance ("Over The Moon"). At the Life Café after the show, Benny criticizes the protest and the group's Bohemian lifestyle. Mark and all the bohemians in the café rise up and celebrate the Bohemian lifestyle ("La Vie Boheme A").
Benny tries to plant doubts in Mimi's mind about Roger. Mimi confronts Roger about ignoring her during dinner. Then, as Mimi's beeper goes off (reminding her to take her AZT) she and Roger each discover that the other is HIV-positive and decide to move forward with their relationship ("I Should Tell You"). Joanne returns, explaining that Mark and Roger's building has been padlocked and a riot has broken out. As the first act closes, Mark reveals that amidst the riot, Roger and Mimi share their first kiss ("La Vie Boheme B").
Opening with "Seasons of Love" the second act takes place over the course of the year following the first act ("Seasons of Love").
Having been locked out of their apartment by Benny; Mark, Roger, and the Bohemians gather to break-in ("Happy New Year A"). We learn through a series of voicemails ("Voicemail #3") that Mark had filmed the riot which had made the nightly news, and that he has a job offer from Alexi Darling at Buzzline, a tabloid news program.
The others finally break through the door just as Benny arrives. He says he's there to call a truce. He reveals that Mimi, a former girlfriend of his, convinced him to change his mind by making sexual advances on him. Mimi denies seducing Benny, but the revelation that they had once been together upsets Roger. Roger and Mimi both apologize, but Mimi remains upset, and turns to the drug dealer for a fix ("Happy New Year B").
Maureen and Joanne have a fight, giving each other relationship ultimatums. Maureen's flirtatious ways and Joanne's controlling behavior are too much for the other to take, so they break up ("Take Me Or Leave Me"). The company sings a reprise of "Seasons of Love", as time passes and seasons change ("Seasons of Love B"). By spring, Roger and Mimi's relationship has become strained. Roger keeps talking about moving out of town. Mimi comes home late again, causing Roger to believe that she is cheating on him with Benny. Roger jealously storms out, Mimi stops him and tries to tell him the truth, that she is not cheating and that she is still using drugs, but can't get the words out, and Roger leaves. Alone in the apartment, Mimi sings of her love for Roger, and elsewhere, Roger sings of his love for Mimi ("Without You"). Collins continues nursing Angel, whose health is declining as AIDS begins to overtake her. Mark continues to receive calls from Alexi Darling ("Voicemail #4"). Eventually, Roger and Mimi, and Joanne and Maureen, reconcile.
A dance is performed representing the couples' sex-lives ("Contact"). At the climax of the number, Joanne, Maureen, Roger and Mimi break up again. At the same time, Angel passes away, leaving Collins heartbroken. At the funeral, the friends briefly come together to share their memories of Angel, with Collins being the last to speak ("I'll Cover You [Reprise]"). Mark expresses his fear of being the only one left surviving when the rest of his friends die of AIDS or break up ("Halloween"). He finally accepts the job offer from Buzzline. Roger reveals that he is leaving New York for Santa Fe, which sparks an argument about commitment between him and Mimi, and Maureen and Joanne. Collins arrives and admonishes the entire group for fighting on the day of Angel's funeral. Maureen and Joanne realize their fighting is petty, and they reconcile. Mimi tries to go to Roger, but he turns away. After everyone leaves, Mark confronts Roger about his behavior towards Mimi. As the two friends fight, Mark reveals that Roger's feelings aren't jealousy towards Benny, but fear of losing Mimi to AIDS. As Roger leaves, he runs into Mimi, who tells him that she heard everything and just wanted to say goodbye to Roger ("Goodbye Love"). Benny and Mark offer to take Mimi to a rehab center, but she trails off on her own. Collins is forcibly evicted from the church for being unable to pay for Angel's funeral. Benny shows some compassion and pays for it himself. Admitting that even he felt affection for Angel, Benny and Collins go to a bar to get drunk.
Feeling alone and conflicted, Roger and Mark separately reflect on their lives and on the past year with their friends. Both reach an artistic epiphany, as Roger finds his song in Mimi and Mark finds his film in Angel's memory. Roger returns to New York just in time for Christmas, and Mark quits Buzzline to work on his own film ("What You Own").
Worried about their children not answering their calls, the cast's parents leave several messages on their phones ("Voicemail #5"). On Christmas Eve, exactly one year after the start of the first act, Mark has finished his film and is ready to screen it. Roger has written his song but can't find Mimi anywhere. It is revealed that Benny's wife, finding out about Benny's relationship with Mimi, has pulled Benny out of the East Village. Collins enters with handfuls of cash, revealing that he reprogrammed an ATM at a grocery store to provide money to anybody with the code (A-N-G-E-L). Maureen and Joanne abruptly enter carrying Mimi, who is very weak and close to death. She begins to fade, but not before telling Roger that she loves him ("Finale A"). Roger tells her to hold on as he plays her the song he wrote for her, which reveals the depths of his feelings for her ("Your Eyes"). Mimi appears to die, but suddenly awakens. She says that she was heading into a light, but Angel told her to go back. The surviving Bohemians gather together to rejoice and resolve to enjoy whatever time they have left with each other and reaffirm that there is "no day but today" ("Finale B").
- Mark Cohen : A struggling Jewish documentary filmmaker and the narrator of the show. He is Roger's and Collins's roommate until Collins moves out; he is also Maureen's ex-boyfriend.
- Roger Davis : A once successful but now struggling musician and ex-lead singer and guitarist of the band the Well Hungarians who is HIV positive and an ex-junkie. He hopes to write one last meaningful song before he dies. He is having a hard time coping with the fact that he, along with many others around him, knows that he is going to die. His girlfriend, April, killed herself after finding out that she was HIV positive. He is roommates with Mark.
- Mimi Márquez: A club dancer and drug addict. She lives downstairs from Mark and Roger, and is Roger's love interest who, like him, has HIV. She is also Benny's ex-lover.
- Tom Collins : An anarchist with AIDS. He is described by Mark as a "computer genius, teacher, and vagabond anarchist who ran naked through the Parthenon." Collins dreams of opening a restaurant in Santa Fe, where the problems in New York will not affect him and his friends. He was formerly a roommate of Roger, Mark, Benny, and Maureen, then just Roger and Mark, until he moves in with Angel.
- Angel Dumott Schunard : A young drag queen and street percussionist with AIDS. He is Collins's love interest.
- Maureen Johnson : A performance artist who is Mark's ex-girlfriend and Joanne's current girlfriend. She is very flirtatious and cheated on Mark (presumably with Joanne). Larson considered Maureen a lesbian, despite her relationships with men, and he specifically identified her as "lesbian" in the script itself. 
- Joanne Jefferson : An Ivy League-educated public interest lawyer and a lesbian. Joanne is the woman for whom Maureen left Mark. Joanne has very politically powerful parents (one is undergoing confirmation to be a judge, the other is a government official).
- Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III : Landlord of Mark, Roger and Mimi's apartment building and ex-roommate of Mark, Collins, Roger, and Maureen. Now married to Alison Grey of the Westport Greys, a very wealthy family involved in real estate, and he is considered a yuppie scum and a sell-out by his ex-roommates. He is also Mimi's ex-lover, although he considers himself her ex-boyfriend.
- Mrs. Cohen: Mark's stereotypical Jewish mother. Her voicemail messages are the basis for the songs Voicemail #1, Voicemail #3, and Voicemail #5.
- Alexi Darling: The producer of Buzzline who tries to employ Mark after his footage of the riot makes primetime. Sings Voicemail #3 and Voicemail #4.
- Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson: The wealthy parents of Joanne Jefferson, they leave her Voicemail #2. Mr. Jefferson is also one of the a cappella singers in Voicemail #5. Mrs. Jefferson usually sings the female solo in Seasons of Love.
- Mrs. Davis: Roger's confused mother who calls in Voicemail #5, asking continuously, "Roger, where are you?"
- Mrs. Marquez: Mimi's Spanish-speaking mother who sings in Voicemail #5, wondering, in Spanish, where she is.
- Mr. Grey: Benny's father-in-law who wants to buy out the lot.
- The Man: The local drug dealer whom Mimi buys from and Roger used to buy from. Based on the character Parpignol from La Boheme. Source.
- Paul: The man in charge of the Life Support group.
- Gordon: One of the Life Support members. Usually doubles as "The Man"
- Steve: One of the Life Support members. Usually doubles as "The Waiter"
- Ali: One of the Life Support members
- Pam: One of the Life Support members
- Sue: One of the Life Support members. As notated in the script by Larson, the roles of all of the Life Support members are encouraged to take on the name that someone in the cast (or production) knows or has known to have succumbed to AIDS. In the final Broadway performance, Sue is renamed Lisa.
- Squeegee Man: A homeless person who chants "Honest living!" over and over.
- The Waiter: A waiter at the Life Cafe.
There are also many other non-named roles such as The Homeless Woman, The Preacher, Seasons of Love soloists, Cops, Bohemians, Vendors, Homeless People.
New York workshops and off-Broadway production
Rent had its first staged reading at New York Theatre Workshop in March 1993. A further two-week New York Theatre Workshop version was performed in 1994 starring Anthony Rapp as Mark and Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi, and more workshops followed. The show opened on January 25, 1996, again at New York Theatre Workshop, and quickly gained popularity off-Broadway, receiving enthusiastic reviews. The New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley called it an "exhilarating, landmark rock opera" with a "glittering, inventive score" that "shimmers with hope for the future of the American musical." Another reviewer wrote, "Rent speaks to Generation X the way that the musical Hair spoke to the baby boomers or those who grew up in the 1960s, calling it 'a rock opera for our time, a Hair for the 90s.'" The show proved extremely successful off-Broadway, selling out all of its performances at the 150-seat theatre.
Original Broadway production
Due to its overwhelming popularity and the need for a larger theater, Rent moved to Broadway's previously derelict Nederlander Theatre on 41st Street on April 29, 1996. On Broadway, the show achieved critical acclaim and word-of-mouth popularity. The production's ethnically diverse principal cast originally included Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Rodney Hicks and Fredi Walker.
The production's controversial topics and innovative pricing, including same day-of-performance $20 tickets, helped to increase the popularity of musical theater amongst the younger generation. The production was nominated for ten Tony Awards in 1996 and won four: Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Heredia)
On April 24, 2006, the original Broadway cast reunited for a one-night performance of the musical at the Nederlander Theatre. This performance raised over $2,000,000 for the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation, Friends In Deed and New York Theatre Workshop. Former cast members were invited, and many from prior tours and former Broadway casts appeared, performing an alternate version of "Seasons of Love" as the finale of the performance.
Original cast ensemble members Rodney Hicks and Gwen Stewart returned to the cast at the time of the Broadway closing. Hicks played Benny and Stewart played the role she created, the soloist in the song "Seasons of Love". In addition, actress Tracie Thoms joined the cast at the end of the run playing Joanne, the role she portrayed in the 2005 film version. The last Broadway performance was filmed and screened in movie theaters as Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway in September 2008. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray formats on February 3, 2009.
Early North American tours
Successful United States national tours, the "Angel Tour" and the "Benny Tour", launched in the 1990s. Later, the non-Equity tour started its run. There was also a Canadian tour (often referred to as the "Collins Tour").
The Angel tour began in November 1996 in Boston. It then went on to St. Paul, Minnesota, Washington, DC, Chicago (where Anthony Rapp temporarily joined the cast), Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Los Angeles (where Daphne Rubin-Vega temporarily joined the cast), before finishing in San Francisco in September 1999. Cast members appearing in the Angel Cast included Simone, Manley Pope, Christian Anderson, Carrie Hamilton, Amy Spanger, Evan D'Angeles, Cheri Smith, Julie Danao, Sylvia MacCalla, Kamilah Martin, Jonathon Morgan, Luther Creek, Kristoffer Cusick, Tony Vincent, Courtney Corey, and Shaun Earl.
The Benny Tour began in July 1997 in San Diego, CA at the LaJolla Playhouse. Michael Grief, the original director of the Broadway show was also the artistic director of the LaJolla Playhouse and was instrumental in arranging for the Benny tour to begin in the smaller city of San Diego rather than Los Angeles, CA. It originally featured Neil Patrick Harris in the role of Mark Cohen. The Benny tour generally played shorter stops and often-smaller markets than the Angel Tour did. Cast members appearing in the Benny Cast included Eric Reed, Wilson Cruz, Julia Santana as Mimi, Keely Snelson, d'Monroe, Mark Lull, Courtney Corey, Pierre Angelo Bayuga and Jonathon Morgan. 1999 - 2001 tenure included Julia Santana, Maggie Benjamin (Maureen, September 2000 - July 15, 2001), Scott Hunt (Mark), Tricia Young (Alexi), Haven Burton (Mrs. Cohen), etc...
2000 Irish production
The Dublin production had an extended run at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin in 2000 it starred Sean Pol McGreevy as Mark, Samuel Nicholl as Roger Rachel Tucker as Maureen, Jacqui Dubois as Joanne, Mykal Rand as Collins, Thomas Goodridge as Angel and Allyson Brown as Mimi under the direction of Phil Willmot. The show returned to Dublin in 2009, this time performed by students of Dublin City University's Drama Society at The Helix Theatre, which then moved to the Olympia Theatre, Dublin for a short run due to high demand. DCU's Drama Society mounted another production of the show in April 2013 at The Helix Theatre.
2002-2003 Swedish production
The 2002-2003 Swedish production premiered on May 15, 2002 at The Göteborg Opera in Gothenburg, Sweden. Cast included: Jacob Stadell as Mark, Fredrik Swahn as Roger, Thérèse Andersson as Mimi, Anna Widing as Maureen, Sarah Dawn Finer as Joanne, Conny Bäckström as Angel, Daniel Engman as Collins and Magnus Sjögren as Benny. The show was directed by Nick Bye and ended on June 8, 2003.
2005–2008 U.S. touring companies
Tours ran each season from 2005 to 2008. Cast members included: Aaron Tveit, Ava Gaudet, Danny Calvert, Bryce Ryness, LaDonna Burns, Jed Resnick, Warren G. Nolan, Michael Ifill, Ano Okera, Arianda Fernandez, Tracy McDowell, Chante-Carmel Frierson, Nina Metrick, Sheila Coyle, Aswad, Altamiece' Ballard, Ben Rosberry, Gavin Reign, Mike Evariste, Declan Bennett, Harley Jay, Melvin Bell III, Kristen-Alexzander Griffith, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Jennifer Colby Talton, Douglas Lyons, Dan Rosenbaum, Jenna Noel, Cedric Leiba, Jr., Samuel L. Krauth, Jade Hicks, Mimi Jimenez, Joe Donohoe, Dustin Brayley, Aaron LaVigne, Heinz Winckler, Anwar Robinson, John Watson, Onyie Nwachukwu, Corey Mach, Lou Troche, Christine Dwyer, Karen Olivo, Hannah Shankman, Damien DeShaun Smith, Devon Settles Jr., Natalie R. Perkins, Enrico Banson, Tim Ehrlich, Jeff Cuttler, Christina Sajous, Miguel Jarquin-Moreland, and Stephanie Spano. The tour stopped in many cities including Knoxville and Chicago.
The show made its UK premiere on April 21, 1998 at the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre and officially opened on May 12, 1998. The original cast included Krysten Cummings as Mimi Marquez, Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Angel Schunard, Bonny Lockhart as Benjamin Coffin III, Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins, Adam Pascal as Roger Davis, Anthony Rapp as Mark Cohen, and Jessica Tezier as Maureen Johnson. The show closed on October 30, 1999 after one-and-a-half years. Limited revivals took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre from December 4, 2001 to January 6, 2002; December 6, 2002 to March 1, 2003 (featuring Adam Rickett as Mark and Caprice as Maureen). There was also a successful production for a limited run in Manchester in 2006 with an additional 'goodbye' performance in 2008 from the Manchester cast. \\
In September 2012 a production took place at Greenwich Theatre, London, directed by Paul Taylor-Mills. The cast included Zoe Birkett as Maureen, Stephanie Fearon as Mimi, Benjamin Stratton as Mark, Mikel Sylvanus as Collins and Gary Wood as Angel. In October 2012, Interval Productions ran a production billed as amateur but starring hot new West End talent, at the Cockpit Theatre. A concert version is currently touring the UK, starring Kerry Ellis as Mimi, Nikki Davis-Jones as Maureen, Rory Taylor as Rodger and Paul Ayres as Mark. A final, fully staged, professional production takes place in August 2013 at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick, starring Jodie Steele as Mimi, John Sandberg as Roger and Michael Quinn as Collins, featuring new direction and choreography by Adam Scown.
Rent: School Edition
In 2007, a modified edition of Rent was made available to five non-professional acting groups in the United States for production. Billed as Rent: School Edition, this version omits the song "Contact" and eliminates some of the coarse language and tones down some public displays of affection of the original. Shorewood High School in Shorewood, WI became the first high school to perform an early version of the adaptation in May 2006. The high school was selected to present a workshop performance as part of Music Theatre International's work to adapt the musical for younger actors and potentially more conservative audiences.
There were four test shows of the Rent: School Edition, the first of which premiered at the Stuart, Florida's Lyric Theater in June, 2007, produced by StarStruck Performing Arts Center. The original cast of the finalized version of the Rent: School Edition was in summer of 2007 at Stagedoor Manor, a performing arts camp.
In June 2009, California Youth Conservatory Theatre, a San Diego-based youth theatre company which was originally licensed to perform Rent: School Edition, converted their performance license (through Music Theatre International) to the full-score version of Rent. This was the first production of the unedited Rent licensed and performed by a youth theatre group. This production was directed by Shaun T. Evans and co-directed by Karole Foreman. Rodney Hicks (from the original Broadway cast) was a guest artistic contributor to this production.
In June 2010, Hollywood High School in Hollywood, CA was the first high school to perform the original broadway version of Rent, including the song "Contact", which is omitted in the School Edition.
In March 2013, Hillsboro Comprehensive High School became the first high school in the Southeastern United States to perform the edited edition of "Rent", eighth in the nation overall.
In January 2014, The Brearley School in New York City performed the musical. Prior to the performance, the cast spent several months exploring the historical backdrop of New York City in the 1990's, learning from the non-profit organization, Love Heals. The production raised over $1000 for Love Heals.
On October 16, 2007, the production Rent Remixed opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in London's West End. Directed by William Baker, it was set in the present day. The cast included Oliver Thornton (Mark), Luke Evans (Roger), Craig Stein (Benny), Leon Lopez (Collins), Francesca Jackson (Joanne), Jay Webb (Angel), Siobhán Donaghy (Mimi), and Denise Van Outen (Maureen). From December 24, 2007, the role of Maureen was played by Jessie Wallace. The production received generally unfavorable reviews. The Guardian gave it only one out of five stars, writing, "They call this 'Rent Remixed'. I'd dub it 'Rent Reduced', in that the late Jonathan Larson's reworking of La Bohème, while never a great musical, has been turned into a grisly, synthetic, pseudo pop concert with no particular roots or identity." The production closed on February 2, 2008.
The production radically altered elements of the musical including defining the characters of Mimi, Angel and Mark as British. Songs were reordered (including Maureen's first appearance as the Act I finale). The rehaul of the score was masterminded by Steve Anderson and featured radically rearranged versions of Out Tonight, Today 4 U and Happy New Year.
The Australian cast featured Justin Smith as Mark, Rodger Corser as Roger, Opell Ross as Angel and Australian ARIA Award winner Christine Anu as Mimi. The tour began in Sydney, and wrapped in Melbourne.
A production in Perth, Western Australia was mounted in 2007 and featured Anthony Callea as Mark, Tim Campbell as Roger, Jaya Henderson as Mimi, Courtney Act as Angel, Shai Yammanne as Tom Collins, Sharon Wisniewski as Joanne, Andrew Conaghan as Benny and Nikki Webster as Maureen.
In January of 2014 a new revival production was staged in Melbourne, Australia at Chapel off Chapel to a completely sold out season and 5 star reviews as part of the Midsumma Gay and Lesbian Festival. The production was produced by Next Step Productions who raised money for Aids awareness across the entire season. This production was directed by Paul Watson (Jersey Boys) and the cast included Cameron Macdonald (Jersey Boys) as Mark Cohen, Steve Simmons (Deep Creek Road) as Roger and Melanie Ott and Leigh Barker (Grease 2) as Mimi and Angel.
2005–2006 International tour
The international tour, which played from 2005 to 2006, started in Singapore in 2005 and ended in Budapest in 2006. It also visited Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, Barcelona, Madrid, Stockholm, Reykjavik, Oslo, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Cape Town, Johannesburg, St. Petersburg, and Moscow.
2009 U.S. National tour
A national tour starring Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, reprising their original Broadway (and film) roles, launched in January 2009 in Cleveland, OH. After having a reprise performance in the summer of 2007, they signed on to be part of the 2009 tour. Original "Seasons of Love" soloist Gwen Stewart signed on to this tour as well. Joining them were Nicolette Hart as Maureen, Justin Johnston as Angel, Lexi Lawson as Mimi, Michael McElroy as Collins, Jacques C. Smith as Benny, and Haneefah Wood as Joanne. Ensemble members were Karmine Alers, Toby Blackwell, Adam Halpin, Trisha Jeffrey, Joshua Kobak, Telly Leung, Caren Tackett, Jed Resnick, Andy Senor, Cary Shields, Yuka Takara, and John Watson.
At the tour stop in Detroit, Michigan, Pascal herniated two discs in his neck and was put on medical leave. Cary Shields, an understudy and a Broadway Rent veteran himself, filled in. Pascal made a full recovery and returned to the show.
The 2009 National Tour ended on February 7, 2010, in Sacramento, CA. Tour stops included: Los Angeles, Seattle, Costa Mesa, Toronto, Phoenix, Sacramento, Orlando, Miami, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Des Moines, Tokyo, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Norfolk, and Houston.
2010 Hollywood Bowl
Rent veteran Neil Patrick Harris directed Rent at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA. The production played a three night engagement, August 6–8, 2010. His Beastly co-star Vanessa Hudgens played Mimi.
On April 30, 2010, it was confirmed that Wayne Brady, Aaron Tveit, Skylar Astin, Collins Pennie, Tracie Thoms, Telly Leung, and Gwen Stewart had also been cast as Collins, Roger, Mark, Benny, Joanne, Angel, and the Season of Love soloist (and additional roles) respectively.
On June 4, 2010, it was confirmed that Nicole Scherzinger would round out the cast of Rent playing Maureen. Additionally the show's ensemble included Yassmin Alers, Eric B. Anthony, King Aswad, Susan Beaubian, David Burtka, Kathy Deitch, Sam Given, Rachael Harris, Tricia Kelly, Ethan Le Phong, Kristolyn Lloyd, Zarah Mahler, Laura Mixon, Jason Paige, MiRi Park and Brandon Wardell.
2011 Off-Broadway revival
The show was revived Off-Broadway at Stage 1 of New World Stages with previews starting July 14, 2011 and a scheduled opening of August 11, 2011. This is the first New York Revival of the show since the original production closed less than three years earlier. The production was directed by Rent's original director Michael Greif. Joining Greiff are several Tony Award winning/nominated designers. Almost the entire show is different from the original yet the reinvention did not please the critics, who complained that the new actors did not have a feel for the characters they were playing and it made the show feel contrived. The Off-Broadway production of RENT closed on September 9, 2012.
Rent has been performed in countries around the world, including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Greece, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, Australia, Guam, New Zealand, Israel, Puerto Rico, Austria, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic.
The musical has been performed in twenty-four languages: Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, Greek, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Hebrew.
Rent in repertory with La Bohème
The first ever in-repertory production of La Bohème and Rent was at the Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music in February 2011. Both productions were directed by Victoria Bussert. La Bohème was conducted by Constantine Kitsopoulos, who conducted Baz Luhrmann's production on Broadway. Rent was music directed by Ryan Fielding Garrett.
Cultural impact and legacy
The song "Seasons of Love" became a successful pop song and often is performed on its own. Because of its connection to New Years and looking back at times past, it is sometimes performed at graduations or school holiday programs.
Rent gathered a following of fans who refer to themselves as "RENT-heads." The name originally referred to people who would camp out at the Nederlander Theater for hours in advance for the discounted $20 rush tickets to each show, though it generally refers to anyone who is obsessed with the show. These discounted tickets were for seats in the first two rows of the theater reserved for sale by lottery two hours prior to each show. Other Broadway shows have followed Rent's example and now also offer cheaper tickets in efforts to make Broadway theater accessible to people who would otherwise be unable to afford the ticket prices.
The term originated in Rent's first months on Broadway. The show's producers offered 34 seats in the front two rows of the orchestra for $20 each, two hours before the performance. Fans and others interested in tickets would camp out for hours in front of the Nederlander Theater - which is on 41st Street, just outside Times Square - to buy these tickets. Many RENTheads have seen the show dozens of times, some in various cities. At least one person has seen the show more than 1100 times over the course of the show's nearly 12 year run. Journalist Kelly Nestruck writes in The Guardian that "Rent fans...are known colloquially as RENTheads and even more colloquially as the most annoying of all musical fans".
Popular culture references
The television series The Simpsons, Family Guy, Friends, Will and Grace, Scrubs, Glee, The Big Bang Theory, Gilmore Girls, Felicity, Saturday Night Live, The Office, Franklin & Bash, 2 Broke Girls, Girls, The Neighbors, Modern Family and Smash have included references to the show.
In film, Team America: World Police includes a character who plays a lead role in Lease, a Broadway musical parody of Rent; the finale song is "Everyone has AIDS!";. a character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch wears a Rent t-shirt and speaks of his aspiration to play the role of Angel.
The off-Broadway musical revue Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back includes parodies of Rent songs such as "Rant" ("Rent"), "Ouch! They're Tight" ("Out Tonight"), "Season of Hype" ("Seasons of Love"), "Too Gay 4 U (Too Het'ro 4 Me)" ("Today 4 U"), "Pretty Voices Singing" ("Christmas Bells") and "This Ain't Boheme" ("La Vie Boheme").
|2005 film||2008 Final Performance
|Hollywood Bowl Cast||2011 Off-Broadway
|Mark Cohen||Anthony Rapp||Adam Kantor||Skylar Astin||Adam Chanler-Berat|
|Roger Davis||Adam Pascal||Will Chase||Aaron Tveit||Matt Shingledecker|
|Mimi Márquez||Daphne Rubin-Vega||Rosario Dawson||Renee Elise Goldsberry||Vanessa Hudgens||Arianda Fernandez|
|Tom Collins||Jesse L. Martin||Michael McElroy||Wayne Brady||Nicholas Christopher|
|Angel Dumott Schunard||Wilson Jermaine Heredia||Justin Johnston||Telly Leung||MJ Rodriguez|
|Joanne Jefferson||Fredi Walker||Tracie Thoms||Corbin Reid|
|Maureen Johnson||Idina Menzel||Eden Espinosa||Nicole Scherzinger||Annaleigh Ashford|
|Benjamin Coffin III||Taye Diggs||Rodney Hicks||Collins Pennie||Ephraim Sykes|
Recordings and adaptations
The original Broadway cast recording features most of the musical material in the show on a double-disc "complete recording" collection with a remixed version of the song "Seasons of Love" featuring Stevie Wonder. The label later issued a single-disc "best of" highlights.
There are also many foreign cast recordings.
Rent was adapted into a movie directed by Chris Columbus with a screenplay by Stephen Chbosky. With the exception of Daphne Rubin-Vega and Fredi Walker, the original Broadway cast members reprised the principal roles. Rosario Dawson played Mimi and Tracie Thoms was cast as Joanne, as Rubin-Vega (Mimi) was pregnant at the time of filming and Walker (Joanne) felt she was too old for the part. Released on November 23, 2005, the film remained in the box office top ten for three weeks. Several plot elements were changed slightly, and some of the songs were changed to spoken dialogue in the film. The film's soundtrack was produced by Rob Cavallo, engineered by Doug McKean and features renowned session musicians, Jamie Muhoberac, Tim Pierce, and Dorian Crozier.
2008 live filming
On September 7, 2008, the final performance of the Broadway production of Rent was filmed live and (also using footage shot at a live performance in August 2008) released as Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway in cinemas with high definition digital projection systems in the U.S. and Canada between September 24 and 28, 2008. Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway was released on February 3, 2009 on DVD & Blu-ray formats.[unreliable source?]
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
Original London production
|1999||Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Musical||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Krysten Cummings||Nominated|
|Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Wilson Jermaine Heredia||Nominated|
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- Official Rent musical site
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- Rent Musical on Broadway.com
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