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“If you think you've seen Rent before, you really haven't.”
– Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

“Sharp, incisive and viscerally moving.  . . a masterpiece of stagecraft,
a composition as visually stunning as it is sonically powerful

. . . packed with unforgettable moments.”
– Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“A powerhouse evening of theater.”
– Christopher Reilly Alive Magazine

“Intimate and raw.”
– Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Bringing stunning characters furiously to life, in all their contradictions.”
– Richard Green, TalkinBroadway


How do you measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights,
In cups of coffee,
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In five hundred twenty-five thousand,
Six hundred minutes.
How do you measure
A year in the life?


New Line continued its 23rd season with Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize winning, long-running rock opera Rent. This cheerfully transgressive, 1990s rock/pop riff on the classic story, set in New York City’s East Village, is best described in its creator's own words: “In these dangerous times, where it seems the world is ripping apart at the seams, we can all learn how to survive from those who stare death squarely in the face every day and we should reach out to each other and bond as a community, rather than hide from the terrors of life at the end of the millennium.”

The cast of New Line's Rent included Jeremy Hyatt (Mark), Evan Fornachon (Roger), Anna Skidis (Mimi), Luke Steingruby (Angel), Marshall Jennings (Collins), Sarah Porter (Maureen), Cody LaShea (Joanne), Shawn Bowers (Benny), Kevin Corpuz, Robert Lee Davis III, Zachary Allen Farmer, Ryan Foizey, Wendy Greenwood, Melissa Harris, Nellie Mitchell, and Marcy Wiegert. The show was directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, with music direction by Justin Smolik, scenic and lighting design by Rob Lippert, costume design by Sarah Porter and Marcy Wiegert, and sound design by Kerrie Mondy.

Rent is so many things to so many people. As Larson said, "It's about celebrating life, even in the face of death." It was the first musical in decades that younger audiences really identified with, that speaks in their voice, that voices their concerns, that tackles their issues. It breathed new commercial life into the Broadway musical, possibly signaling the beginning of the end of the great divide between pop music and theatre music, which has existed since the advent of rock and roll in the 1950s, and heralding a new Golden Age of American musical theatre.

New Line artistic director Scott Miller says about Rent, "I saw the original production shortly after it moved to Broadway in 1996, and as much as I was thrilled by it, I really thought that was the only way to stage this show, and just reproducing Michael Greif's original production didn't seem very interesting to me. Then I saw the recent off Broadway production (also directed by Greif) that was so totally different from the original, in just about every way — and yet, it was also every bit as thrilling and emotional. It was almost like seeing the show again for the first time. I now realize, despite the brilliance of the original, that there isn't only one way to stage this show, and that really freed me to take it on."

The New York Times called Rent an “exhilarating, landmark rock opera,” and said it “shimmers with hope for the future of the American musical.” Time magazine called it “the most exuberant and original American musical to come along this decade.” The Wall Street Journal called it “the best new musical since the 1950s.” Rent was nominated for a staggering ten Tony Awards and won four, including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book. It also won six Drama Desk Awards, three Obie Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Drama League Award. And the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The original production ran more than twelve years and over five thousand performances — it's still one of the top ten longest running musicals in Broadway history — and the recent off Broadway revival, opening just three years after the original closed, ran another year.

As had happened with Hair twenty-eight years before Rent, Broadway had borrowed from the alternative theatre community and discovered a gold mine. In 1992, Larson wrote about his show, “Rent exalts Otherness, glorifying artists and counterculture as necessary to a healthy civilization.” Larson and later, many commentators, called the show a Hair for the 90s, and indeed it shares much with the 1968 landmark rock musical. Daphne Rubin-Vega, who originated the role of Mimi, said, “We didn’t want to go to Broadway to become Broadway stars; we went to kick the motherfuckin’ doors of Broadway open, because it’s old-school and stodgy. We were invited there and that was cool.” Rent opened those doors for later shows like Spring Awakening, bare, Next to Normal, American Idiot, Murder Ballad, and so many others. Frank Rich, New York Times political columnist and former senior theatre critic, wrote in a Times op-ed piece, “At so divisive a time in our country’s culture, Rent shows signs of revealing a large, untapped appetite for something better.”

Want to explore more? We recommend:

The original Broadway cast album

The final performance on Broadway filmed live, on DVD

The Rent coffee table book, including the entire script

Director Scott Miller's background and analysis essay about the show

This Charlie Rose interview with the original artistic team and three of the original leads

Boheme Wiki, a Wikipedia-like site just about Rent

The New Line Rent blogs, from the show's director, designer, and actors

An April 1996 Theater Week article about the show

The hilarious original novel Scenes de la Vie de Boheme, on which Rent is based (in English)

The Wikipedia page for the novel and all its adaptations

Anthony Rapp's Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent

Photos from the East Village in the 1990s

The excellent book Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the '90s

The official website of the 2011 off Broadway revival

The actual Life Cafe in New York

A timeline of the AIDS epidemic