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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's Lower East Sidemarker in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet Citymarker, under the shadow of AIDS.

The musical was first seen in a limited three-week Workshop production at the New York Theatre Workshop in 1994. This same New York Citymarker 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 musical is largely responsible for helping to increase the popularity of musical theater amongst the younger generation. The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008, after a 12-year run and 5,124 performances, making it the seventh longest-running Broadway show, eight years behind The Phantom of the Opera. The production grossed over $280 million.

The success of the show led to several national tours and numerous foreign productions, and in 2005, it was also adapted into a motion picture that features most of the original cast members.

Productions involving high school students have generated controversy.

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 Villagemarker, the artsy avant-garde neighborhood of Manhattanmarker down the street from his Greenwich Villagemarker 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 forty-two songs. In the fall of 1992, Larson approached James Nicola, artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, with a tape and copy of Rent's script. When Rent had its first staged reading at the 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'll Get Over It", the predecessor of "Tango: Maureen," featuring Mark and Maureen; "Female to Female A & B," featuring Maureen and Joanne; and "Real Estate", a number where Benny tries to convince Mark to become a real estate agent and drop his film making. 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 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, just a few hours after his first and only interview. 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 1896–100 years 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 AIDS in Rent; 1800s Paris is replaced by New York's East Villagemarker in the late 1980s. 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:

Character Voice type
La bohème Rent La bohème

Rent

Mimi, a seamstress with tuberculosis Mimi Márquez, an exotic dancer with HIV Soprano Mezzo-Soprano
Rodolfo, a poet Roger Davis, a songwriter who is HIV positive Tenor
Marcello, a painter Mark Cohen, an independent filmmaker and Roger's roommate. Baritone Baritone / Tenor
Musetta, a singer Maureen Johnson, a bisexual performance artist Soprano Mezzo-Soprano with Belt
Schaunard, a musician Angel Dumott Schunard, a gay drag queen percussionist with AIDS Baritone Tenor / Sopranist
Colline, a philosopher Tom Collins, a gay philosophy professor and anarchist with AIDS Bass Baritone
Alcindoro, a state councilor Joanne Jefferson, a lawyer, who is Maureen's partner. (Also partially based on Marcello) Bass Alto / Mezzo-Soprano
Benoit, a landlord Benjamin 'Benny' Coffin III, the local landlord and a former roommate of Roger, Mark, Collins, and Maureen. Bass Baritone


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, "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. The song "Quando M'en Vo' Soletta" from La bohème is also referenced in the first verse of "Take Me or Leave Me," when Maureen describes the way people stare when she walks in the street. "Musetta's Waltz" 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 states, "...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 another woman.

The line, "I'm more man than you'll ever be... and more woman than you'll ever get!", attributed to Angel Dumott Schunard at his funeral, was previously used by the character Hollywood Montrose, who appeared in the films Mannequin (1987) and Mannequin: On the Move (1991). Like Angel, Hollywood is a flamboyantly homosexual man who performs a song and dance number and sometimes wears women's clothing; however, the line was originally in the movie Car Wash (1976) as delivered by Antonio Fargas, 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.

Life Café
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, is an actual restaurant 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 Parkmarker.

"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 and the other emotions, 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, however, say 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

Lynn Thomson was a dramaturge who was hired by the New York Theatre Workshop to help rework "Rent". She claimed that between early May and the end of October 1995, they co-wrote a "new version" of the musical. She sued the estate for $40 million USD and sought 16% of the show's royalties. She claimed she had written a significant portion of the lyrics and the libretto.

During the trial, Thomson could not recall the lyrics to the songs that she wrote or the structures of the libretto she 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.

Musical Numbers

Act 1
  • Tune Up #1 — Mark and Roger
  • Voice Mail #1 — Mark's Mother
  • Tune Up #2 — Mark, Roger, Collins, and Benny
  • Rent — Company
  • You Okay Honey? — Angel, Collins, and Man on Street
  • Tune Up #3 — Mark and Roger
  • One Song Glory — Roger
  • Light My Candle — Mimi and Roger
  • Voice Mail #2 — Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson
  • Today 4 U — Collins, Roger, Mark, and Angel
  • You'll See — Benny, Mark, Roger, Collins, and Angel
  • Tango: Maureen — Joanne and Mark
  • Life Support — Company
  • Out Tonight — Mimi
  • Another Day — Mimi, Roger, and Company
  • Will I? — Company
  • On the Street — Company
  • Santa Fe — Collins, Angel, and Mark
  • I'll Cover You — Angel and Collins
  • We're Okay — Joanne
  • Christmas Bells — Company
  • Over the Moon — Maureen
  • Over the Moon Playoff — The Band
  • La Vie Bohème A — Company
  • I Should Tell You — Mimi and Roger
  • La Vie Bohème B — Company


Act 2
  • Seasons of Love — Company
  • Happy New Year A — Mark, Roger, Mimi, Collins, Angel, Maureen, and Joanne
  • Voice Mail #3 — Mark's Mother and Alexi Darling
  • Happy New Year B — Mark, Roger, Mimi, Collins, Angel, Maureen, Joanne, and Benny
  • Take Me or Leave Me — Maureen and Joanne
  • Seasons of Love B — Company
  • Without You — Roger and Mimi
  • Voice Mail #4 — Alexi Darling
  • Contact — Company
  • I'll Cover You (Reprise) — Collins and Company
  • Halloween — Mark
  • Goodbye Love — Mark, Roger, Mimi, Collins, Maureen, Joanne, and Benny
  • What You Own — Roger and Mark
  • Voice Mail #5 — Roger's Mother, Mimi's Mother, Mr. Jefferson, and Mark's Mother
  • Finale A — Company
  • Your Eyes — Roger
  • Finale B — Company
  • Playout (I'll Cover You) — The Band


Synopsis



Act I

The first act of the show takes place on Christmas Eve. The show begins as Mark Cohen, a filmmaker and the narrator of the show, begins shooting an unscripted documentary in his loft. He turns the camera on his roommate and best friend Roger Davis. Roger is a songwriter and former drug addict whose girlfriend committed suicide upon discovering that they were HIV-positive (Tune Up #1). Mark's mother interrupts the filming with a phone call; she says hello and reassures Mark about his performance-artist ex-girlfriend Maureen Johnson dumping him for a woman(Voicemail #1).

Roger and Mark's friend Tom Collins arrives at their building but is beaten up and mugged before he can enter. Meanwhile, Roger and Mark receive a call from former friend and roommate, Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III. Benny married into a wealthy family and bought Mark and Roger's apartment building as well as the lot next door. He tells them the rent is due, despite his promise to let them live in the apartment for free (Tune Up #2). Mark and Roger decide to rebel against Benny and refuse to pay their rent (Rent).

Meanwhile, Joanne Jefferson, Maureen's new girlfriend, is working to set up for Maureen's performance protesting Benny's plan to develop the lot where many homeless people are currently living, when the sound system blows, Maureen calls Mark against Joanne's wishes, asking him to fix the sound system; Mark agrees to help against his better judgment. Back on the street, Angel Dumott Schunard, a street drummer and drag queen, spots Collins injured and comes to his aid; they leave together to tend to Collins's wounds. They are instantly attracted to one another and quickly discover that they both have AIDS (You Okay Honey?). The two quickly fall deeply in love.

Back at the loft, Mark tries to get Roger out of the apartment (Tune Up #3). He attempts to write a great song to make his mark on the world before he dies of AIDS (One Song Glory). Roger is interrupted by a knock on his door. He answers it to find Mimi Márquez, a beautiful stranger asking him for a match to light a candle due to the power failure. Roger thinks he has seen her before and soon realizes that he saw her working as an S&M dancer at The Cat Scratch Club. Roger learns that she is a nineteen-year-old junkie who lives in the apartment downstairs (Light My Candle). There is mutual attraction, but Roger is hesitant to flirt as this is his first romantic situation since April's death.

Joanne's parents call her house, wondering why she is stage managing and reminding her that she has to attend her mother's confirmation hearings (Voice Mail #2). Meanwhile, Collins finally arrives at the lot and introduces Mark and Roger to Angel (Today 4 U) just as Benny arrives with an offer for the roommates: if they convince Maureen to cancel her protest, he will let them live in the loft rent-free (You'll See); however, the two rebuff his offer. After Benny leaves, Angel and Collins invite Mark and Roger to attend Life Support, a local HIV support group meeting.

Before going to the Life Support meeting, Mark arrives at the lot and meets Joanne. While fixing the sound equipment, Mark tells Joanne of how Maureen flirted and cheated with other men while he dated her (Tango: Maureen). Mark feels better after the exchange, but Joanne becomes suspicious. At a life support meeting Gordon tells the group his T cells are low, and the group talks about living with AIDS (Life Support).

Mimi is seen dancing on the fire escape of her loft, and then arrives at Roger's apartment and asks Roger to take her out for the night (Out Tonight). Roger, however, rejects her, telling her he can't love again, and demands that she leaves (Another Day). However, Roger thinks it over and ends up leaving the loft to go to Maureen's protest. Afterwards, focus is set on the Life Support meeting again, as people from the group wonder if they'll lose their dignity because they have AIDS (Will I?).

On their way to the show, Collins, Mark and Angel meet a peddler who gets angry with Mark for making a name for himself filming their lives but not really aiding them (On the Street). Collins talks about opening up a restaurant in Santa Fe (Santa Fe). As Mark leaves to go double check that everything is okay for Maureen's show, Collins and Angel confess their love for each other (I'll Cover You). On the protest, Joanne speaks like crazy on the phone, getting everything ready for the protest (We're Okay).

Mark and Roger meet up before the protest. Roger spots Mimi on her way to buy drugs from a dealer. He intercepts her and apologizes, inviting her to come to the protest and dinner with them instead, to which she agrees. Meanwhile, Angel and Collins go for a walk in a street market near the protest, Benny talks to Alison and tells her he couldn't stop the protest and people from the streets protest for not having a place to spend Christmas (Christmas Bells).

Maureen arrives and begins her performance: A thinly-veiled criticism of Benny through a metaphor involving a cow and a bulldog, culminating in her urging the crowd to "moo" with her (Over The Moon and Over The Moon Playoff). The protest results in a riot that Mark catches on camera. Afterward, the group goes to the Life Café, where they run into Benny and his investor and father-in-law Mr. Grey. Benny criticizes the protest and the group's Bohemian lifestyle, declaring that Bohemia is dead. Mark gets up and delivers a mock eulogy for Bohemia, and all the bohemians in the café rise up and celebrate the death of Bohemia La Vie Boheme, ("the bohemian life"), joyfully paying tribute to everything they love about life while dancing on the tables, driving Mr. Grey and Benny from the café (La Vie Boheme A).

Mimi confronts Roger about ignoring her during dinner. Roger explains that he is trying but he has baggage that she doesn't know about that is holding him back. Mimi says she has baggage too and is not waiting for someone perfect. She says life is too short to waste time on taking things slow. Then Mimi's beeper goes off, reminding her to take her AZT, and Roger and Mimi each discover that the other is HIV-positive. They talk openly for the first time and despite their uncertainties and fears, they finally take the plunge into starting a relationship (I Should Tell You), and rejoin the group to continue celebrating Bohemia (La Vie Boheme B).

Act II

Cast of Rent performing "Seasons of Love" at Broadway on Broadway, 2005.
The act opens with the entire cast lined up at the front of the stage singing "Seasons of Love" - a song which contemplates how to measure a year in a life. The second act takes place over the course of the year following the first act, beginning on New Years Eve.

Mimi, Mark, and Roger attempt to break into their building, which has been padlocked by Benny in response to Maureen's protest. Mimi and Roger are happy and say their past week together has been great. Mimi optimistically makes a New Year's resolution to give up her vices and go back to school. Joanne and Maureen also decide to try a relationship again (Happy New Year A) . Collins and Angel arrive bearing a blowtorch. As the others work on the door, Mark, Joanne and Maureen climb the fire escape into the loft and find two messages on the answering machine: one from Mark's mother, wishing him a Happy New Year, and another one from Alexi Darling, as Buzzline, a tabloid newsmagazine wants to hire Mark as a director after having seen his footage of the riot (Voice Mail #3).

The others finally break through the door just as Benny arrives. He says he's there to call a truce and offer Mark and Roger a key, but the group doesn't trust him. He reveals that Mimi came to talk to him and that he and Mimi used to date. He suggests that Mimi came onto him. This revelation upsets Roger and he briefly rebuffs Mimi before Angel settles everyone down. Roger and Mimi both apologize, but Mimi remains upset. The group leaves except for Mimi, who turns to the drug dealer for a fix (Happy New Year B).

On Valentine's Day, Maureen and Joanne have a fight while rehearsing for a new protest. They give each other ultimatums to take each other as they are or leave (Take Me Or Leave Me). Joanne is not able to accept Maureen's flirtatious and non-committal ways and Maureen cannot take Joanne's controlling behavior so they break up. The company sing Seasons of Love's reprise, as time passes and seasons change (Seasons of Love B). By spring, Roger and Mimi's relationship becomes strained and Angel's health deteriorates. Roger has been living with Mimi in her apartment for two months and he keeps talking about selling his guitar and moving out of town. Mimi comes home late again after secretly buying drugs, 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, but can't get the words out, and Roger leaves her (Without You). Collins continues nursing Angel who is very sick as AIDS begins to overtake him. Mark continues to receive calls from Buzzline (Voice Mail #4). Eventually, Roger and Mimi, and Joanne and Maureen reconcile.

They then break up just as quickly. They are frustrated in their relationships, because they cannot trust and fully commit to one another. At the same time, Angel dies and Collins is heartbroken (Contact, 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 (Halloween). He finally accepts the job offer from Buzzline. Roger reveals that he is leaving New York for Santa Femarker, 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 and that the "family" is breaking up. Maureen and Joanne realize their fighting is petty and they reconcile. Mimi tries to go to Roger, but he turns away from her.

As Roger prepares to leave the city, he gets into a fight with Mark. Mark accuses Roger of running away because he is afraid of watching Mimi die and asks Roger how could he let Mimi go. Roger accuses Mark of hiding in his work. When Roger leaves the apartment, he finds that Mimi, who has come to say goodbye, has heard everything (Goodbye Love). She bids Roger a tearful goodbye saying she just came to tell her love goodbye and does not blame him for leaving. He is confused, but quickly leaves before reconsidering. Mark suggests that Mimi enroll in a clinic and Benny suggests rehab, which he offers to pay for. Instead, Mimi runs away. Collins is then ejected from the church as he is unable to pay for Angel's funeral. Benny tells the pastor that he will take care of the bill. He, Collins and Mark reconcile.

In Santa Fe, Roger cannot forget Mimi; back in New York, Mark is working for Buzzline. They both have an artistic epiphany, as Roger finally 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. On Christmas Eve, Mark is preparing to screen his finished documentary (What You Own).

Worried about their sons not answering their calls, the cast's parents leave several messages on their phones (Voice Mail #5). Roger is ecstatic about finding his song but is worried because he cannot find Mimi. Suddenly, Maureen and Joanne arrive carrying Mimi who is sick and delirious. Roger realizes Mimi is seriously ill and might not have much longer. They finally clear up their misunderstandings as Mimi grows weaker. 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. As he finishes, Roger finally tells Mimi that he has always loved her. (Your Eyes) Mimi goes limp and Roger cries out in grief. Then, suddenly, Mimi gasps and awakens, her fever breaking. She says that she was heading into a warm, white light and that Angel was there, and he told her "Turn around girlfriend. And listen, to that boy's song." Mimi and Roger embrace and Roger thanks God that this is not his last moment with Mimi. Everyone begins to sing the Life Support message of the fleetingness of life and reaffirm that there is "no day but today". At the same time, Mark screens his documentary. At the climax of the finale, Angel appears on stage to sing the last line with the rest of the company (Finale B).

Main characters

  • Mark Cohen, a struggling documentary filmmaker, the narrator of the show. He is Roger's and Collins's roommate until Collins moves out; he is also Maureen's ex-boyfriend. Baritone/Tenor
  • Roger Davis, A once successful, but now, struggling musician who's HIV + 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, know that they are going to die. His girlfriend April killed herself after finding out she and he had HIV. He is roommates with Mark. Tenor
  • Tom Collins, a gay anarchist with AIDS. He is described by Mark as a "computer genius; teacher; vagabond anarchist who ran naked through the Parthenonmarker." Collins dreams of opening a restaurant in Santa Femarker, 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 Roger and Mark, until he moves in with Angel. Baritone
  • 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 and is considered a yuppie sell-out by his ex-roommates.Baritone
  • Joanne Jefferson, an Ivy League-educated public interest lawyer, and a lesbian. Joanne is the woman for whom Maureen left Mark. Joanne has very important parents (one is undergoing confirmation to be a judge, the other is a political figure). Contralto
  • Angel Dumott Schunard, a drag queen, street percussionist with AIDS. He is Collins's love interest. Tenor (often with falsetto)
  • Mimi Márquez, A club dancer and drug addict who has AIDS. She lives downstairs from Mark and Roger, and is Roger's love interest. Mezzo Soprano
  • Maureen Johnson, a bisexual performance artist; Mark's ex-girlfriend and Joanne's current girlfriend. She is very flirtatious and cheated on both Mark and Joanne. Mezzo Soprano


Minor characters

  • "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 #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
  • "The Man", the local drug dealer who Mimi buys from and Roger used to buy from.
  • "Paul", the man in charge of the Life support group.
  • "Gordan", 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. In some productions. (Such as the Final Broadway Performance on DVD), her name is changed to Lisa.


NOTE: Performers are encouraged to substitute the names of life support members for personal friends and loved ones whom have lost their lives to AIDS.

There are also many other non-named roles such as, The Waiter, The Homeless Woman, Seasons of Love Soloists, Cops, Bohemians, Vendors, Homeless People.

Productions

New York workshops and off-Broadway production

Rent had its first staged reading at the 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 the 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 and Fredi Walker.

The production's controversial topics and innovative pricing, including some 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 the 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.

Rent closed on September 7, 2008, after a 12-year run and 5,124 performances, making it the eighth-longest-running Broadway show. The production grossed over $280 million. At the time of its closing, it was the second-longest-running musical playing on Broadway, eight years behind The Phantom of the Opera.

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, 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, Keely Snelson, d'Monroe, Mark Lull, Courtney Corey, and Jonathon Morgan.

2005-2008 U. S. touring companies

Tours ran each season from 2005 to 2008. Cast members included: Dan Rosenbaum, Bryce Ryness, LaDonna Burns, Aaron Tveit, Jed Resnick, Warren G. Nolan, Michael Ifill, Ano Okera, Arianda Fernandez, 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, Jennifer Colby Talton, Jenna Noel, Cedric Leiba, Jr., Jade Hicks, Mimi Jimenez, Joe Donohoe, Dustin Brayley, Aaron LaVigne, Heinz Winckler, Anwar Robinson, John Watson, Onyie Nwachukwu, Corey Mach, Christine Dwyer, 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.

First Non-professional Production

The first theatre group in the United States of Americamarker to produce RENT after it was made available for amateur production through MTI in April 2009, was Introspect Theatre in Bartlett Illinois, June 2009. The production was directed by Jeff Linamen with music direction by Ceara Windhausen. The cast of 21 was made up of current students and alumni of Bartlett High School.

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 , this version omits the song "Contact" and eliminates some of the coarse language and tones down some public displays of affection of the original. There were four test shows of the Rent: School Edition. The first high school production premiered at Harry S.marker Truman High Schoolmarker in Levittown, Pennsylvaniamarker on November 9, 2007. During the 2009 school year, high schools in West Virginia and Texas cancelled proposed productions of Rent: School Edition because of administrators' and/or parents' concerns about the play's morality and controversial themes.

Rent Remixed

On October 16, 2007, the production Rent Remixed opened at the Duke of York's Theatremarker in London's West End. Kylie’s creative director, William Baker, directed this production, and set it 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 finale of Act 1). 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.

Australia 1999 and 2007

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 wrapped in Melbourne in 1999. A Perthmarker, Australia production 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.

2005-2006 International tour

The international tour, which played from 2005–2006, 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 new mini tour stars Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp reprising their original Broadway (and film) roles in a 2009 national tour of the musical, which launched in January 2009 in Cleveland, OH. After having a reprise performance in the summer of 2007, they signed in to be part of the 2009 tour. Original "Seasons of Love" soloist Gwen Stewart signed on to be part of the tour as well. Joining them on the tour are Nicolette Hart as Maureen, Justin Johnston as Angel, Lexi Lawson as Mimi, Michael McElroy as Collins, Jacques C. Smith as Benny, Haneefah Wood as Joanne, and Ensemble members are 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 Detroitmarker, 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 has since made a full recovery and has returned to the show.

The 2009 U.S National Tour will end in Sacramento, CA in February 2010.

Regional Productions

Rent will premiere at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford NY from August 5 through September 25

South Eastern Professional Premiere

Trustus Theatre in Columbia, SC will be the home of the first south eastern professional theatre production. The production is directed by Dewey Scott Wiley with musical direction by Christopher Cockrell. Running December 4-13 2009 and January 7-13 2010. More information at www.trustus.org

International productions

Rent has been performed in countries around the world, including Denmarkmarker, Finlandmarker, Icelandmarker, Norwaymarker, Swedenmarker, Belgiummarker, The Netherlandsmarker, Irelandmarker, United Kingdommarker, Francemarker, Germanymarker, Switzerlandmarker, Portugalmarker, Spainmarker, Italymarker, Estoniamarker, Hungarymarker, Polandmarker, Slovakiamarker, Greecemarker, Canadamarker, United States of Americamarker, Dominican Republicmarker, Mexicomarker, Panamamarker, Boliviamarker, Brazilmarker, Argentinamarker, Russiamarker, Chinamarker, Hong Kongmarker, South Koreamarker, Taiwanmarker, Japanmarker, Philippinesmarker, Singaporemarker,Thailandmarker, South Africa, Australia, Guammarker, New Zealandmarker and now in 2009 Israelmarker, Puerto Rico and Austriamarker.

The musical has been performed in twenty-two languages: Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Estonian, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, Greek, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.

Cultural impact

The song "Seasons of Love" became a somewhat successful pop song and is often performed on its own.

RENT-heads

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.Adams, Bob. "Time for 'Rent'", The Philadelphia Gay News, August 14, 1998 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 Broadwaymarker. 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".

Pop culture references

References to Rent or parodies of it have been included in a wide variety of media. On television, series such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, Friends, Will and Grace, Scrubs, and Felicity have incorporated references to the show.

A 2008 Saturday Night Live episode cast host Neil Patrick Harris as Mark (a role he once played in the Los Angeles cast of the show) in a sketch depicting various Broadway characters brainstorming ideas on how to save the dying industry. Harris plays Mark in a style mocking Anthony Rapp (the original Mark) and at the end of the sketch, describes his desire to put on a huge show where, "...at the end, we'll all join hands and sing the anthem of the '90s"; he then starts singing "Seasons of Love".

Will Ferrell (as George W. Bush) mentions Rent, as well as singing a few lines of 'Seasons of Love' in the opening few minutes of his HBO Special "You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush"

Some examples in film are Team America: World Police, which has a character having a lead in Lease, a Broadway musical parody of Rent (where the performers sing the finale song "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 2005 film The 40-Year-Old Virgin features a scene in which Dave jokes that Cal must be gay because he has seen Rent three times. In the 2007 movie Knocked Up, a child in the car wants to listen to the soundtrack of Rent.

The off-Broadway musical 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).

In the TV show "The Big Bang Theory", Penny stars as Mimi in the musical, but Leonard and Sheldon make up an excuse not to go because she sounds terrible.

The Newspaper comic "Frank and Ernest" mentions Rent in one comic strip.

In a 1997 episode of the sitcom, Wings , titled "Escape From New York," "Rent" is referred to repeatedly including a two-minute scene in the theatre lobby where Helen and Brian try to sneak into a performance.

Casts

Original Broadway cast

The original Broadway cast of Rent:

(*) The actor also portrayed this character in the 2005 film version.

Notable Broadway replacements

Rent has often included cast members that are well-known actors, actresses, and pop performers—but not for performing in stage musicals. Some of these, and other notable cast replacements, are:

(*) The actor also portrayed this character in the 2005 film version.

(†) The actor portrayed this character in the 2008 Final Performance DVD.


Recordings and Adaptations

Audio Recordings

A recording of the original Broadway cast is available on DreamWorks, which contains 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. It also contains a single-disc "best of" highlights.

2005 Film Adaptation

Rent was adapted into a movie directed by Chris Columbus with a screenplay by Stephen Chbosky. With the exception of Mimi and Joanne, the original Broadway cast members reprised the principal roles. Rosario Dawson played Mimi, and Tracie Thoms was cast as Joanne, as Daphne Rubin-Vega (Mimi) was pregnant at the time of filming, and Fredi 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.

Awards

Tony Awards

Rent was nominated for ten Tony Awards in 1996 and won four:

Won


Other nominations


Additional awards

Rent was also nominated for the following awards; it won all but four of the nominations:

Won
  • 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Book
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical: Wilson Jermaine Heredia
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Orchestrations: Steve Skinner
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Lyrics
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music
  • 1996 Theater World Award for Outstanding New Talent: Adam Pascal
  • 1996 Theater World Award for Outstanding New Talent: Daphne Rubin-Vega
  • 1996 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical
  • 1996 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical
  • 1996 Drama League Award for Best Musical
  • 1996 Obie Award for Outstanding Book, Music, and Lyrics
  • 1996 Obie Award for Outstanding Direction: Michael Greif
  • 1996 Obie Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance


Other nominations


References

External links




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