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Rent (musical)

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 Side in the thriving days of the Bohemian East Village, under the shadow of AIDS.

Rent won a Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize, among other awards. In addition, its cast was unusually ethnically diverse. Rent brought controversial topics to a traditionally conservative medium, and it helped to increase the popularity of musical theater amongst the younger generation. "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 musical was first seen in a limited two-week workshop run at the New York Theatre Workshop in 1994. This same New York City off-Broadway theatre was also the initial home following its official January 26, 1996 opening, before a move to Broadway's larger Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996. Rent has been successful on Broadway, where it had critical acclaim and word-of-mouth popularity. The Broadway production of Rent closed on September 7, 2008 after a 12 year run and 5,124 performances, making it the seventh-longest-running Broadway show. The production has grossed over $280 million. At the time of its closing, it was the second-longest-running musical currently on Broadway, eight years behind The Phantom of the Opera.

In 2005, Rent was also adapted into a motion picture that features most of the original cast members. Certain plot elements were changed slightly, and some of the songs were changed to spoken dialogue. This movie features Rosario Dawson as Mimi and Tracie Thoms as Joanne. The original Mimi, Daphne Rubin-Vega was pregnant at the time they were making the movie. The original Joanne, Fredi Walker, was offered the role, but thought she was too old to play the part.


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", "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 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 photography. This workshop version of Rent starred Anthony Rapp as Mark, Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi, and Gilles Chaisson in the same ensemble role he played in the eventual Broadway production.

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. Times theater critic Ben Brantley gave Rent a glowing review, calling it an "exhilarating, landmark rock opera" with a "glittering, inventive score" that "shimmers with hope for the future of the American musical. 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 became the hottest ticket in town, popularity fueled by its genuinely raw material, relevant subject matter, enthusiastic reviews, and the recent death of its composer. The show 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 Village 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 is an amalgamation of both Marcello and Alcindoro in Bohème:

Character in La bohème Character in Rent (musical)
Mimi, a seamstress with tuberculosis Mimi Márquez, an exotic dancer with HIV
Rodolfo, a poet Roger Davis, a musician who is HIV positive
Marcello, a painter Mark Cohen, a filmmaker
Musetta, a singer Maureen Johnson, a lesbian performance artist
Schaunard, a musician Angel Dumott Schunard, a gay drag queen percussionist with AIDS
Colline, a philosopher Tom Collins, a gay philosophy professor and anarchist with AIDS
Alcindoro, a state councilor Joanne Jefferson, a lawyer, who is a lesbian (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, "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 (film) (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 the lesbians; 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, 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 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 and the other emotions, much like Life Support. After that first time, Larson attended the meetings regularly. 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. 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 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 " 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."

In her 1998 book Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America, author Sarah Schulman claims that plot elements from Rent were lifted from her 1990 book People in Trouble. In an interview, she said, "The gay part of Rent is basically the plot of my novel." Schulman claims that upon reading her novel, Larson stole her ideas and altered them to make them more consumer-oriented and "gay friendly" in order to turn the best profit.

Lynn Thomson is a dramaturge who was hired by the New York Theatre Workshop to help rework Jonathan Larson’s musical Rent. She claims that between early May and the end of October 1995 with Larson as principal author and Thomson as secondary author they co-wrote what they designated as the October 1995 "new version" of Rent. She sued the estate for forty million dollars, seeking 16 percent of royalties from the show. She claimed she had written a significant portion of the lyrics and the libretto.

In August 1998, the case was settled outside of court with the Jonathan Larson estate. The settlement addressed claims of Lynn Thomson regarding credit, royalties and other issues concerning the rewriting of Rent. The terms of the settlement were confidential and not to be disclosed by either side as pursuant to a court order.

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
  • La Vie Bohème — Company
  • I Should Tell You — Mimi and Roger
  • La Vie Bohème B — Company
Act 2

  • Seasons of Love — Company
  • Happy New Year — 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 & Mark
  • Voice Mail #5 - Roger's Mother, Mimi's Mother, Mr. Jefferson, and Mark's Mother
  • Finale — Company
  • Your Eyes — Roger
  • Finale B — Company


Act I

Pre-show, the stage is visible to the audience as stagehands, musicians etc. informally move about the stage, preparing for the performance. The show begins as Mark Cohen, a filmmaker and the narrator of the show, begins shooting an unscripted documentary about his friends on Christmas Eve in his loft, turning the camera on his roommate Roger Davis, a songwriter coming off of "half a year of withdrawal" who is picking up his guitar for the first time in a year ("Tune Up #1"). Mark's mother interrupts with a call from the suburbs; she reassures Mark after his performance artist girlfriend Maureen Johnson dumped him for a woman, and says that his family will miss him at home for Christmas ("Voice Mail #1").

Outside, their friend Tom Collins, a former professor of philosophy, comes to visit them but is jumped by thugs and lies bleeding on the street. Meanwhile, their former friend Benjamin Coffin III (Benny), who married wealthy Alison Grey of Westport (who the rest of the cast refer to disparagingly as "Muffy") and bought Mark and Roger's apartment building and the lot next door, calls and breaks his promise to let them live in the apartment for free. He asks for the rent, which he knows they do not have ("Tune Up #2"). The power to Mark and Roger's apartment shuts off, and they vent their frustrations about being broke artists unable to pay the rent and unable to find inspiration for their art. Meanwhile, Joanne Jefferson, a Harvard-educated lawyer and Maureen's new girlfriend, is working on the sound system 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 to fix the sound system for her against Joanne's wishes, and Mark agrees to help against his better judgment. Mark and Roger decide to rebel against Benny and refuse to pay their rent ("Rent").

Back on the street, Angel Dumott Schunard, a street drummer, spots Collins and comes to his aid; later, they leave the alley together to tend to Collins's wounds ("You Okay Honey"?). They are instantly attracted to one another and quickly discover that they both have AIDS. Meanwhile, Mark asks Roger to come to Maureen's show or dinner that night in an effort to get him out of the house, but Roger declines. Mark reminds Roger to take his AZT, revealing that Roger is HIV positive. He also reveals that Roger's girlfriend, April, committed suicide after finding out that they were both HIV-positive, probably from using contaminated needles ("Tune Up #3").

After Mark leaves, Roger sings about his desperate need to write one great song to make his mark on the world before he dies of AIDS ("One Song Glory"). He hears a knock on his door and answers it to find Mimi Márquez, a nineteen-year-old junkie and S&M dancer at the Cat Scratch Club. She lives in the apartment downstairs and asks Roger to light a candle for her because her electricity and heat have also been shut off. Mimi also needs the candle to prepare her heroin, which she drops inside the loft and then employs as means to flirt with Roger. There is mutual attraction, but Roger is hesitant as this is his first romantic situation since April's death ("Light My Candle") In Maureen and Joanne's loft, Joanne's parents call about legal and family matters, but she is not home to hear it ("Voice Mail #2").

Collins finally reaches to Mark and Roger's apartment, bearing booze and groceries. He introduces Angel in full and gorgeous drag, flashing a large stack of money. Mark inquires about the money, and Angel explains that a wealthy woman paid him to play his drums outside her neighbor's apartment to drive the yappy Akita (named Evita) that lived there into jumping off a window ledge ("Today 4 U"). (The audience finds out later that the Akita belonged to Benny's wife.) Benny arrives and tells Mark and Roger that he will guarantee that they can live in the apartment rent-free if they convince Maureen to cancel her protest ("You'll See"). Mark refuses. After Benny leaves, Angel and Collins invite Mark and Roger to attend Life Support, a local HIV support group meeting. Roger declines, but Mark assures them he will come after he fixes Maureen's sound equipment.

Mark arrives at the lot and meets Joanne. After initial distrust, they agree that dating Maureen, a self-absorbed flirtatious diva, is like dancing an exasperatingly complicated tango, and the two reluctantly discover that they can be friends ("Tango: Maureen"). After fixing the sound system, Mark joins Collins and Angel at the Life Support meeting, where members share their thoughts and fears about living with AIDS. Gordon, a member of the group who has found out his T-cells are low, voices his hurt and anger at the news and explains that while afraid of what lies ahead, he tries to accept it "because reason says/I should have died/three years ago..." Roger echoes this last refrain ("Life Support"). Meanwhile, Mimi returns to Roger's apartment and playfully asks him to take her ("Out Tonight").

Roger is terrified of caring about Mimi because she is a heroin addict, which led to Roger's own HIV infection, and because he knows he does not have long to live and does not want Mimi to feel the loss he felt for April. Roger yells at her to leave. Mimi gently urges Roger to forget past regrets, saying that there is "no day but today." However, he refuses to listen and drives her out of his apartment ("Another Day"). At the Life Support meeting, Steve, another member questions the coming end as everyone sings of the fear and uncertainty of his or her life. ("Will I?"). Roger changes his mind and leaves the loft at last.

After leaving Life Support, Mark saves a homeless bag lady from being beaten by a police officer, only to be reprimanded by her for being a pretentious artist ("On The Street"). As they walk away contemplating her response, Collins fantasizes about living in an idealized Santa Fe, where the climate and the people are much warmer ("Santa Fe"). Mark leaves, promising that he will try to convince Roger to go to Maureen's show. Collins and Angel realize that they have fallen in love and officially become a couple ("I'll Cover You"). Meanwhile, Joanne, juggling phones, is getting ready for the protest and her upcoming legal case ("We're Okay"). Mark yells at Roger for not giving Mimi a chance at love. On the street, Roger apologizes to Mimi and invites her to the protest and the dinner party afterwards, and she accepts. Meanwhile, Maureen, Joanne, the riot police and Benny prepare for the protest in different ways, and Angel buys Collins a new coat to replace the one the muggers stole from him ("Christmas Bells").

Everyone attends Maureen's performance, a thinly veiled criticism of Benny through a metaphor involving a cow and a bulldog, riffing on "Hey Diddle Diddle" ("Over The Moon"). The protest ends in a riot that Mark catches on camera. A local news station purchases his footage. Afterwards, the group goes to the Life Cafe, where they spot Benny and his investor, Mr. Grey, who is also Benny's father-in-law. 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 La Vie Boheme, ("the bohemian life"), joyfully paying tribute to everything they love about life while dancing on the tables, driving Benny and his investor from the café.

It is revealed that Benny and Mimi used to be in a relationship that ended three months earlier when Benny confronts Mimi about Roger. Joanne catches Maureen kissing another woman and angrily stalks off ("La Vie Boheme"). Mimi's beeper goes off reminding her to take her AZT, and Roger and Mimi discover that they are both 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"). Joanne comes back to break up with Maureen, and informs everyone that the homeless are refusing to leave the lot despite police presence. This news sparks a new round of joyful revelry ("La Vie Boheme B"). The act closes as Mimi and Roger share a small kiss.

Act II

The act opens with an entr'acte ("Seasons of Love") focusing on the entire year that goes by in the next act.

Mimi, Mark, and Roger's building has been padlocked because of Maureen's protest. On New Year's Eve, Roger, Mark and Mimi try to break into their building. Mimi optimistically makes a New Year's resolution to give up her heroin addiction and go back to school. Joanne and Maureen decide to try for a relationship again, and all the couples are happy together. Collins and Angel make an appearance as James Bond and Pussy Galore, and Angel brings a blowtorch.

Mark, Maureen, and Joanne scale the fire escape and break in through a window, while the others use Angel's blowtorch to break down the door ("Happy New Year A"). They discover that the power has returned in their absence and that Alexi Darling of Buzzline, a tabloid newsmagazine, had seen Mark's footage of the riot and has left a message on Mark's answering machine offering him a contract ("Voice Mail #3"). All the friends enter the apartment celebrating the New Year, but Benny shows up, prematurely ending the festivities. Benny asks Mark to film him offering a rent-free contract, but the friends accuse him of trying to get good press. Incensed, Benny maliciously implies that Mimi showed up at his place and "convinced" him to rethink the financial situation, while Mimi denies everything. Roger becomes extremely upset and renounces their relationship, but Angel convinces everyone to calm down and make a New Year's resolution to always remain friends. Roger and Mimi make up, but Mimi is still upset and sneaks off to buy heroin ("Happy New Year B").

On Valentine's Day, Maureen and Joanne have a fight while rehearsing for a new protest, and break up again ("Take Me or Leave Me"). In the spring as both relationships and Angel's health deteriorates, the cast poses the question, "How do you figure a last year on earth?" ("Seasons of Love B"). 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, and Mimi sings about life without him. All the while, Collins continues nursing Angel. All the couples reconcile because they realize the emptiness in living alone ("Without You"). Alexi keeps calling Mark to try to convince him to join Buzzline ("Voice Mail #4").

The scene turns to a bed containing all the couples, with the implication that they are all having sex (Mark is absent), which quickly transforms into a frustrating and awkward situation for all of them. However, for Collins and Angel, the bed is both a place for sexual contact and a place where Angel, embodied in a release of sexual and bodily energy, dies from AIDS ("Contact"). Collins is heartbroken, and at Angel's funeral, he declares his undying love. The others take part in the funeral, mourning the loss of such a close friend ("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, and finally accepts Alexi's job offer ("Halloween"). Everyone leaves the funeral, and Roger reveals that he is leaving New York for Santa Fe, which sparks an argument about commitment between both couples, with Mark and Benny desperately trying to restore calm. Collins arrives and admonishes the entire group, quietly shaming them for making such a scene at the funeral of a man who only believed in love.

Maureen and Joanne make up again, but Mimi leaves with Benny after Roger shuns her. When Roger prepares to leave, he gets into a fight with Mark. Roger accuses Mark of living a fake life by hiding in his work, and Mark accuses Roger of running away because he is afraid of watching Mimi die. When Roger leaves the apartment, he is horrified to find a clearly weak Mimi, who had come to say goodbye, standing outside the door. He realizes that she overheard everything. She is visibly shaken and bids Roger a tearful goodbye, as Roger runs away determined to find his song. Finding a distraught Mimi, Mark suggests that she enroll at a rehabilitation clinic, which Benny offers to pay for ("Goodbye Love"). Collins is unable to pay for Angel's funeral, and Benny foots the bill for that, too, revealing that he knew that Angel had killed his dog, whom he never liked. He, Collins and Mark reconcile.

In Santa Fe, Roger cannot forget Mimi; back in New York, Mark, working for Buzzline, remembers Angel and his overall joy in life and love. They both suddenly 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. ("What You Own") On Christmas Eve, everyone's parents call to try to find his or her children but nobody is home ("Voice Mail #5"). Mark is preparing to show his finished documentary. Roger is ecstatic about finding his song. No one, however, has been able to find Mimi. Collins arrives with money, revealing that he rigged a nearby ATM to dispense free cash with the PIN "A-N-G-E-L". Suddenly, Maureen and Joanne arrive, calling for help. They bring in Mimi, who is sick and delirious from living on the streets in the dead of winter. Roger is frantic and Collins calls 9-1-1 but is put on hold. Mimi and Roger finally clear up their misunderstandings, and Mimi tells Roger that she loves him ("Finale A"). Knowing that time is short, Roger asks Mimi to listen to the song that he had been working on all year, a song inspired by her ("Your Eyes').

As he finishes his song to Mimi and finally tells her that he has always loved her, they kiss. Mimi goes limp and Roger, in tears, believes her to be dead. Suddenly Mimi revives, saying that she was heading into a warm, white light and that Angel was there, telling her to turn back and listen to Roger's song. She and Roger embrace, and everyone is touched and relieved as they are reminded of the fleetingness of life and reaffirm that there is "no day but today" ("Finale B"). At the same time, Mark screens his documentary on the walls of the Theater. At the climax of the finale, Angel appears on stage to sing the last line with the rest of the company.


  • Mark Cohen, a struggling documentary filmmaker, the narrator of the show and the person who creates a final movie which details his friends' lives and journeys throughout the story. Ex-boyfriend of Maureen. Roommate of Roger. Baritone/Tenor.
  • Roger Davis, an HIV-infected musician who is recovering from heroin addiction; his girlfriend April killed herself after finding out she and he had HIV; Mark's roommate and Mimi's love interest. Tenor.

  • Mimi Márquez, an HIV-positive exotic dancer and heroin junkie; Roger's love interest who used to be involved with "Benny" Coffin III. Mezzo-soprano.
  • Angel Dumott Schunard, a gay drag queen street percussionist/musician with AIDS; Collins' lover. Tenor (often with falsetto).
  • Joanne Jefferson, an Ivy League-educated lawyer; Maureen's lover; lesbian. Contralto.
  • Maureen Johnson, a lesbian performance artist; Joanne's girlfriend; Mark's ex-girlfriend. Mezzo-soprano.
  • Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III, landlord of Mark, Roger and Mimi's apartment building; ex-roommate of Mark, Collins, Roger, and Maureen. Now married to Alison Grey of the Westport Greys and thus considered a yuppie sell-out. Baritone (often with recitative).


Original New York workshop and Broadway production Cast members: Gilles Chiasson, Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Rodney Hicks, Kristen Lee Kelly, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Aiko Nakasone, Timothy Britten Parker, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gwen Stewart, Byron Utley, Fredi Walker.North American tours There have been three very successful United States national tours. The "Angel Tour" and the "Benny Tour" launched soon after the Broadway production opened. More recently, 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, Mark Lull, Keely Snelson, Eric Reed, Evan Fifer, 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 May 1997 in Los Angeles. 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, Keely Snelson, d'Monroe, Mark Lull, Courtney Corey, and Jonathon Morgan.International productions In addition to the Broadway production and North American tours, Rent has been performed around the world. Countries that have had productions include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Greece, Canada, United States of America, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Russia, Israel, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, Australia, Guam, and New Zealand.

Rent 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, Hebrew, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.Tenth Anniversary production On April 24, 2006, the original Broadway cast reunited for a one-night-only performance of the musical at the Nederlander Theatre. All of the original cast members took part with the exception of Gilles Chiasson whose son was born that morning. 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 back and many from prior tours and former Broadway cast members appeared, performing an alternate version of "Seasons of Love" as the finale of the performance.2005-2006 Touring Company Cast members: Bryce Ryness, 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. Swings: Jahmal Adderly, Matthew Hydzik, Cedric Leiba Jr., Jenna Noel, Jennifer Colby Talton.2006-2007 Touring Company Cast members: Declan Bennett, Harley Jay, Warren G. Nolan, Michael Ifill, Melvin Bell III, Kristen-Alexzander Griffith, Ano Okera, Jennifer Colby Talton, Chante-Carmel Frierson, Jenna Noel, Jade Hicks, Aswad, Mimi Jimenez, Joe Donohoe, Dustin Brayley, Aaron LaVigne. Swings: Sheila Coyle, Mitch Dean, Alexis Hightower, Aaron LaVigne, Douglas Lyons.2007-2008 Touring Company Cast members: Heinz Winckler, Jed Resnick, Anwar Robinson, John Watson, Kristen-Alexzander Griffith, Jennifer Colby Talton, Onyie Nwachukwu, Christine Dwyer, Hannah Shankman, Jade Hicks, Devon Settles Jr., Natalie R. Perkins, Dustin Brayley, Corey Joseph Mach, Tim Ehrlich. Swings: Aswad, Jeff Cuttler, Miguel Jarquin Moreland, Christina Sajous, Stephanie Spano.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 turns down the public displays of affection of the original. There were four test shows of the Rent- School Edition.Rent remixed On October 16, 2007, the production Rent Remixed opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in London's West End. Kylie’s creative director, William Baker, put the show together. This production has been modernized for 2007. The cast includes Oliver Thornton (Mark), Luke Evans (Roger), Craig Stien (Benny), Leon Lopez (Collins), Francesca Jackson (Joanne), Jay Webb (Angel), Siobhán Donaghy (Mimi), Denise Van Outen (Maureen) and lydia Perrow. The ensemble consists of Ruth Augilera, Lewis Griffiths, C.J. Johnson, Antony Luperi, Earl Perkins, Jamie Sampson, and Philippa Stefani. However, following a throat infection, Van Outen was forced to cancel several performances, and the role of Maureen was played by C. J. Johnson. From December 24, 2007, the role of Maureen was played by former EastEnders actress Jessie Wallace. The production received generally bad reviews. The Guardian gave it 1/5 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. Although initially booking until April 5, 2008, the production closed on February 2, 2008. A European tour may follow.

Australia 1999 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 1999.2005-2006 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.Australian Cast 2007 The Australian cast of the Perth 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.Argentinean Cast 2008 The production takes place in Buenos Aires within the Ciudad Konex; recycled oil factory turn into an art center for theatrical and music performances The cast included Roger: Germán “Tripa” Tripel, Mimi: Florencia Otero, Mark: Andrés Bagg, Collins: Pablo Sultani, Angel: Angel Hernández, Maureen: Laura Conforte, Joanne: Déborah Turza, Benny: Martín Repetto 2009 National Tour Rent stars Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp will reprise their original Broadway (and film) roles in a 2009 national tour of the musical, which will launch in January 2009. Also starring in the production will be Jonathon Morgan and Evan Fifer. After having a reprise performance in the summer of 2007, they signed in to be part of the 2009 tour.

Cultural impact

Rent has gathered a huge following of fans that 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 has an obsession with the show. These rush tickets were discounted tickets to 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 more people who would otherwise be unable to afford the ticket prices.

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

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.

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).

During an episode of Family Guy, Lois is directing a production of The King and I. Lois does not want to do a bad show and Peter states that if they wanted to do a bad show they could do Rent.


Original Broadway cast The original Broadway cast of Rent was as follows:

Notable 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 listed here.

Broadway closing

The musical was scheduled to end its Broadway run on June 1, 2008, but the closing announcement stimulated ticket sales, and the run was extended through September 7, 2008. Over the course of the production's 12-year engagement, there were 5,124 performances, making Rent the seventh-longest-running Broadway show in history, with gross revenues of over $280 million.

Original cast ensemble members Rodney Hicks and Gwen Stewart returned to the cast at the time of the Broadway closing. Hicks played Benny and Gwen 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. Producer Allan S. Gordon said of the closing, "There's mixed emotions, but it's time." The last Broadway performance of Rent was filmed and screened in movie theaters with high definition digital projection systems in the U.S. and Canada between September 24 and 28, 2008. The screening was part of a business venture launched by Sony Pictures Releasing entitled The Hot Ticket. In addition to the final performance, the film features "special closing night extras, when original cast members... joined and celebrated in the farewell festivities."


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.

Movie 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. For the film, Rosario Dawson appeared in the role of Mimi, the role Daphne Rubin-Vega originated on Broadway; Tracie Thoms was cast as Joanne, originally played by Fredi Walker. The roles were re-cast because Rubin-Vega was pregnant and Walker 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.


Tony Awards

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

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 PerformanceOther nominations
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical: Adam Pascal
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical: Daphne Rubin-Vega
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical: Michael Greif
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Costume Design: Angela Wendt


External links

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