On January 25, 1995, the face of Broadway changed forever. The critically acclaimed musical, Rent opened up to the public for the first time Off-Broadway in the New York Theater Workshop. The show is loosely based off of Puccini’s opera, “La Boheme”, and centers around eight characters living in New York City. The play, written by Jonathan Larson, addressed very critical issues of the time like the HIV/AIDS epidemic, drug use, and thriving in a city with not that much money. Larson noticed that theater was not something that the “MTV” generation sought out and made his goal to bring back the art form that he loved so dearly.
And it worked. Larson spent many years working on Rent, but unfortunately never got to see its success. On the night of its debut, Jonathan Larson died from an aortic aneurysm.
“There was a huge ovation, the cast slowly left the stage and the audience stayed in the theater. No one was sure what to do,” Antony Rapp remembers. “The cast returned and sat down in the front row. Finally, a single voice called from the audience. ‘Thank you Jonathan Larson,’ which brought the evening’s loudest and final burst of applause.”
Since its debut 19 years ago, Rent has been performed all over the world and received the Pulitzer Prize award. It has changed the lives and culture surrounding the LGBTQ community. Rent ended its run as the tenth longest running Broadway musical in 2008, but its message still lingers in our heart with that familiar tune.