Rent (musical)

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"RENT" redirects here. For other uses, see RENT (disambiguation).
"Goodbye Love" redirects here. For the 1933 film, see Goodbye Love (film).
Original Broadway window card
Music Jonathan Larson
Lyrics Jonathan Larson
Book Jonathan Larson
Basis La bohème
by Giacomo Puccini
Productions 1993 Workshop
1996 Off-Broadway
1996 Broadway
1996 Angel Tour
1997 Benny Tour
1997 Collins Tour
1998 West End
1998 Tokyo
1998 Sydney
1999 Mexico City
1999 São Paulo
1999 Barcelona
2001 UK Tour
2001 Non-Equity Tour
2001 West End
2005 International Tour
2005 Film
2007 West End
2008 Buenos Aires
2009 National Tour
2010 Hollywood Bowl
2011 Off-Broadway
2016 Barcelona
2016 20th-Anniversary Tour
Awards Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical
Tony Award for Best Original Score
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics

Rent is a rock musical with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson[1] loosely based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City's East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

The musical was first seen in a workshop production at New York Theatre Workshop in 1993. This same Off-Broadway theatre was also the musical's initial home following its official 1996 opening. The show's creator, Jonathan Larson, died suddenly of an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, 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.[2]

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. On February 14, 2016, the musical Wicked surpassed Rent's number of performances with a 2pm matinee, pushing Rent from the tenth- to eleventh-longest-running Broadway show.[3][4] The production grossed over $280 million.[5]

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.

Concept and genesis[edit]

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."[6] 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 suggested setting the play "amid poverty, homelessness, spunky gay life, drag queens and punk" in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, which happened to be down the street from his Greenwich Village apartment. He 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."[7] Aronson and Larson made an agreement that if the show went to Broadway, Aronson would share in the proceeds.[7]

Jonathan Larson focused on composing Rent in the early 1990s, waiting tables at the Moondance Diner to support himself. Over the course of 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.[7]

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.[8]

On January 24, 1996, after the musical's final dress rehearsal before its off-Broadway opening, Larson had 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.[7] 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 Theater Workshop.[2] Due to such overwhelming popularity and a need for a larger theater, Rent moved to Broadway's recently remodeled Nederlander Theatre on 41st Street on April 29, 1996.[2]

Sources and inspiration[edit]

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.[6] 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.

La Bohème Rent
Mimi, a seamstress with tuberculosis Mimi Márquez, an erotic dancer with HIV and 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-American filmmaker and Roger's roommate
Musetta, a singer Maureen Johnson, a bisexual performance artist and Joanne's girlfriend
Schaunard, a musician Angel Dumott Schunard, a drag queen percussionist with AIDS, who is Collins' partner.
Colline, a philosopher Tom Collins, a gay, part-time philosophy professor at New York University and anarchist with AIDS and Angel's boyfriend
Alcindoro, a state counselor 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 draws melodic content directly from "Che gelida manina";[9] "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.[10] "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'." This part of "Musetta's Waltz" is also later used in "Your Eyes", a song Roger writes.

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.[11] 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 friends, cinematographer and producer Jonathan Burkhart and documentary filmmaker Eddie Rosenstein.

Playwright Sarah Schulman alleged that Rent bore striking similarities to her novel People in Trouble.[12]

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 performs a song and dance number and sometimes wears women's clothing, although Angel is a trans woman and Hollywood 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.[13]

Life Café

Many actual locations and events are included in, or are the inspiration for, elements of the musical. Life Café, where the "La Vie Bohème" numbers are set, was an actual restaurant (closed 2013) on 10th Street and Avenue B in the East Village of New York City.[14][15] The riot at the end of the first act is based on the East Village riot in 1988 that arose as a result of the city-imposed curfew in Tompkins Square Park.[15]

"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.[16]

The scene and song "Life Support" were 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 " 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[edit]

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.[17]


Rent at David Nederlander Theatre in Manhattan, New York City

Act One[edit]

On Christmas Eve in Manhattan's East Village, two roommates—Mark, a filmmaker, and Roger, a rock musician—struggle to stay warm and produce their art during Roger's First Tune Up. Their friend Collins, a gay anarchist professor, leaves a First Voicemail and plans to surprise them at their apartment, but is mugged before entering. At the same time, Roger and Mark's former roommate Benny, who has since become their harsh new landlord, has reneged on an earlier agreement and now demands last year's rent, before shutting down their electrical power during Roger's Second Tune Up. However, Mark and Roger rebel and pledge "We're not gonna pay last year's Rent...". Meanwhile, a cross-dressing street drummer (currently out of drag) named Angel finds Collins wounded in an alley and tends to him, asking "You Okay, Honey?". The two are immediately attracted to each other, and learn that they are both HIV positive. Roger also has HIV, along with his last girlfriend, who committed suicide. Mark goes looking for Collins ("Tune Up #3"), while Roger dreams of writing "One Song Glory, one song before I go...". An exotic dancer and neighbor, Mimi, walks in to flirt with Roger, who is hesitant to start a new relationship. She enters asking to "Light My Candle...". Meanwhile, a Second Voicemail reveals that Joanne, a lawyer, is the new girlfriend of Maureen, a protest artist who recently dumped Mark.

At last, the missing Collins enters the apartment, presenting Angel, who is now in full drag and shares the money she made and the amusing story of how she attained it, boasting that it's "Today 4 U, tomorrow for me...". Benny arrives, speaking of Maureen's upcoming protest against his plans to evict the homeless from a lot where he is hoping to build a cyber arts studio. Benny offers that, if they convince Maureen to cancel the protest, then they can officially remain rent-free tenants. However, the two rebuff Benny's offer and he leaves, telling them "You'll See...". Mark must leave to fix Maureen's sound equipment for the protest, but he meets Joanne at the stage. They overcome their awkwardness by connecting over their shared distrust of Maureen's promiscuous behaviors. They imagine how this might look like in the form of the "Tango: Maureen". Mark joins his friends to film their HIV "Life Support" meeting, while Mimi attempts to "...go Out Tonight" and seduce Roger alone in the apartment, though he coldly tells her to "Come back Another Day...". After Mimi leaves, Roger reflects on his fear of dying from AIDS, while the life-support group echoes his thoughts. Everyone ends up asking "Will I lose my dignity?".

"On the Street...", Collins, Mark, and Angel protect a homeless woman from police harassment, but she chastises them. Collins talks about his dream of escaping New York City to "Open up a restaurant in Santa Fe...", and, soon, Collins and Angel confess their love for each other, proclaiming "I'll Cover You...". Joanne hectically prepares for Maureen's show, telling everyone "We're Okay", and Roger apologizes to Mimi, inviting her to come to the protest and the dinner afterwards. Police, vendors, and homeless people prepare for the protest, saying that "Christmas Bells are ringing...", and Maureen begins her avant-garde, if not over the top, performance, "Over the Moon", based on "Hey Diddle Diddle". At Life Café after the show, Benny criticizes the protest and the group's bohemian lifestyle. In response, Mark and all the café's bohemian patrons defiantly rise up to celebrate their "La Vie Bohème" lifestyle. Mimi and Roger each discover that the other is HIV-positive and decide to move forward with their relationship, struggling to say "I Should Tell You". Joanne explains that Mark and Roger's building has been padlocked and a riot has broken out, just before Roger and Mimi share their first kiss. Everyone proclaims to live "Viva La Vie Bohème".

Act Two[edit]

Cast of Rent performing "Seasons of Love" at Broadway on Broadway, 2005

The cast lines up to sing "Seasons of Love", before the plot resumes with Mark and Roger gathering to break back into their locked apartment with their friends, believing "It's gonna be a Happy New Year...". A "Third Voicemail" reveals that Mark's footage of the riot has earned him a job offering at a tabloid news company. The others continue their Happy New Year..." and finally break through the door just as Benny arrives, saying he wants to call a truce, revealing that Mimi, a former girlfriend of his, convinced him to change his mind. Mimi denies rekindling her relationship with Benny, but Roger is upset, and Mimi goes to her drug dealer for a fix.

Around Valentine's Day, Mark tells the audience that Roger and Mimi have been living together, but they are tentative with each other. It is also told that Maureen and Joanne are preparing another protest, and during rehearsal, Maureen cites Joanne's controlling behavior and Joanne cites Maureen's promiscuous mannerisms, and they break up dramatically coming up with the ultimatum "Take Me or Leave Me". Time speeds on to spring ("Seasons of Love B"), but Roger and Mimi's relationship is strained by her escalating heroin usage and Roger's lasting jealousy and suspicion of Benny. Each alone, Roger and Mimi sing of love and loneliness, telling each other how they feel "Without You" as they watch Collins nurse Angel, whose health is declining from AIDS. Mark continues to receive calls offering a corporate job at a tabloid television show, as revealed by a "Fourth Voicemail". The couples have devolved into on-and-off relationships. A dance is performed representing all the couples' sex-lives ("Contact"). At the climax of the number, the two former couples break up, and Angel suddenly dies. At the funeral, the friends briefly come together to share their memories with Collins being the last to reminisce ("I'll Cover You [Reprise]"). On "Halloween" Mark expresses his fear of being the only one left surviving when the rest of his friends die of AIDS, and he finally accepts the corporate job offer. Roger reveals that he is leaving for Santa Fe, which sparks an argument about commitment between him and Mimi, and between Maureen and Joanne. Collins arrives and admonishes the entire group for fighting on the day of Angel's funeral, causing Maureen and Joanne to reconcile, but not Mimi and Roger. Collins is forcibly removed from the church for being unable to pay for Angel's funeral. Benny shows compassion by paying, causing him and Collins to recuperate their old friendship. The group shares a sad moment, knowing that between deaths and leaving, their close-knit friendships will be breaking up. Everyone tells each other "Goodbye Love".

Months later, both Mark and Roger are simultaneously reaching 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 his job to work on his own film once more. They both come to the conclusion "You are What You Own...". The characters' parents leave several messages on their phones ("Voicemail #5"), and on Christmas Eve, exactly one year having passed, Mark prepares to screen his now-completed film to his friends. Roger has written his song, but no one can find Mimi for him to play it to. Benny's wife, discovering Benny's relationship with Mimi, has pulled Benny out of the East Village; the power suddenly blows and 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 has been homeless and is now 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, "Your Eyes" which reveals the depths of his feelings for her. Mimi appears to die, but abruptly awakens, claiming to have been heading into a white light, except that a vision of Angel told her to go back. The remaining friends gather together in a final moment of shared happiness and resolve to enjoy whatever time they have left with each other, affirming that there is "no day but today" ("Finale B").[18]

Musical numbers[edit]


Main characters[edit]

  • Mark Cohen (Lead): A struggling Jewish-American documentary filmmaker and the narrator of the show. He is Roger's roommate; at the start of the show, he was recently dumped by Maureen.
  • Roger Davis (Lead): A once-successful-but-now-struggling musician and ex-lead singer and rock guitarist 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 (Lead): A Hispanic-American club dancer and drug addict. She lives downstairs from Mark and Roger, is Roger's love interest, and, like him, has HIV. She is also Benny's ex-lover.
  • Tom Collins (Support): An anarchist professor 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 out.
  • Angel Dumott Schunard (Support): A young transgender woman/drag queen that uses both she/her and he/him pronouns. Angel is a street percussionist with a generous disposition, who has AIDS; Collins' love interest.[19]
  • Maureen Johnson (Support): 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. However, an old lesbian friend of Larson told him it was wrong to call Maureen a lesbian because of her attraction to men, and that is where the idea of her being a bisexual started.[20]
  • Joanne Jefferson (Support): 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 (Support): 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 yuppie scum and a sell-out by his ex-roommates. He at one time had a relationship with Mimi.

Minor characters[edit]

  • 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, a sleazy tabloid company that 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. Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson usually sing the solos 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 Bohème.[21]
  • Paul: The man in charge of the Life Support group.
  • Gordon: One of the Life Support members.
  • Steve: One of the Life Support members.
  • 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 during "Christmas Bells".
  • The Waiter: A waiter at Life Cafe.
  • The Woman With Bags or Homeless Woman: A woman who attacks Mark for trying to help her during "On The Street".
  • The Preacher or The Pastor: The Preacher kicks Collins out of the church because he can't pay for Angel's funeral.

There are also many other non-named roles such as Cops, Bohemians, Vendors, Homeless People.


Critical reception of Rent was positive not only for its acting and musical components, but for its representation of HIV positive individuals. Many critics praised the portrayal of characters such as Angel and Collins as being happy, with positive outlooks on life, rather than being resigned to death.[22] While critics and theatre patrons had largely positive reviews of the show, criticism was given to the show for the stereotypically negative portrayal of lesbian characters and the "glamourization" of the East Village in the late 1980s.[23]

Cultural impact and legacy[edit]

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.[24] 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.[24][25] 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.[26] Many RENTheads have seen the show dozens of times, some in various cities.[27] One man is reported to have seen the show more than 1100 times over the course of the show's nearly 12-year run.

Popular culture references[edit]

The television series The Simpsons,[28] Family Guy,[29] Friends,[30] Will and Grace,[31] Scrubs,[32] Glee, The Big Bang Theory, Gilmore Girls, Felicity,[33] Saturday Night Live, The Office, Franklin & Bash, 2 Broke Girls, Girls, Seinfeld, The Neighbors, Modern Family, Smash, Supernatural, and Bob's Burgers have included references to the show.

The 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!".[34] Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch wears a Rent T-shirt and speaks of his aspiration to play the role of Angel.[35]

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 Bohème").[36]

In the film Deadpool, Wade Wilson is seen wearing a Rent T-shirt.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer and writer of the Broadway show Hamilton, has cited Rent as a main source of inspiration.[37]


Role 1994 New York Theatre Workshop Original Broadway
2005 film[39] 2008 Final Performance
Hollywood Bowl Cast[41] 2011 Off-Broadway
2016 north american tour
Mark Cohen Anthony Rapp Adam Kantor Skylar Astin Adam Chanler-Berat Danny Harris


Roger Davis Tony Hoylen Adam Pascal Will Chase Aaron Tveit Matt Shingledecker Kaleb Wells
Mimi Márquez Daphne Rubin-Vega Rosario Dawson Renée Elise Goldsberry Vanessa Hudgens Arianda Fernandez Skyler Volpe
Tom Collins Pat Briggs Jesse L. Martin Michael McElroy Wayne Brady Nicholas Christopher Aaron Harrington
Angel Dumott Schunard Mark Setlock Wilson Jermaine Heredia Justin Johnston Telly Leung MJ Rodriguez David Marino
Maureen Johnson Sarah Knowlton Idina Menzel Eden Espinosa Nicole Scherzinger Annaleigh Ashford Katie Lamark
Joanne Jefferson Shelley Dickenson Fredi Walker Tracie Thoms Corbin Reid Jasmin Ealser
Benjamin Coffin III Michael Potts Taye Diggs Rodney Hicks Collins Pennie Ephraim Sykes Christian thomson

Recordings and adaptations[edit]

Audio recordings[edit]

Main article: Rent (albums)

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.[43] The label later issued a single-disc "best of" highlights.[44]

The film version also yielded a double-disc soundtrack recording of the complete score,[45] and single CD of highlights.[46]

There are also many foreign cast recordings.[47]

2005 film[edit]

Main article: Rent (film)

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 soundtrack was produced by Rob Cavallo, engineered by Doug McKean and features renowned session musicians Jamie Muhoberac, Tim Pierce and Dorian Crozier. The film received mixed reviews.

2008 live filming[edit]

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.[48][unreliable source?]

2016 20th-Anniversary Tour[edit]

It was recently announced that the 20th-anniversary tour of Rent is scheduled to go out starting in Bloomington, Indiana from September 12 to 15, 2016. The tour is non-equity.[49]

Upcoming Documentary[edit]

Filmmaker and "Rent" alum Andy Senor, Jr. is currently producing a documentary, following his journey producing the musical in Cuba in late 2014. This production of "Rent" was the first Broadway musical to premiere in Cuba since diplomatic relations between the two countries became strained during the Cold War.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Outcome
1996 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Book of a Musical Jonathan Larson Won
Best Original Score Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Adam Pascal Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Daphne Rubin-Vega Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Wilson Jermaine Heredia Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Idina Menzel Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Michael Greif Nominated
Best Choreography Marlies Yearby Nominated
Best Lighting Design Blake Burba Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Jonathan Larson Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Adam Pascal Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Daphne Rubin-Vega Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Wilson Jermaine Heredia Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical Michael Greif Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Steve Skinner Won
Outstanding Lyrics Jonathan Larson Won
Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Costume Design Angela Wendt Nominated
Pulitzer Prize for Drama Won
Theatre World Award Adam Pascal Won
Daphne Rubin-Vega Won

Original London production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
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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External links[edit]