Rent is a musical created by Jonathan Larson, who took Billy Aronson’s idea of developing a modern musical interpretation of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème and made it a reality. Larson’s writing of this piece was heavily influenced by his interest in rock music, by his idol, composer Stephen Sondheim, and by a puppet-style performance of La Bohème which he saw as a boy with his parents.
The musical is set in East Village, New York City, and follows the story of a group of aspiring artists in the 1990s, with their battles against HIV/AIDS, poverty, and eviction from their squatted homes due to redevelopment projects, and cruelly and powerfully depicts the conditions faced by the homeless with the backdrop of the New York youth artistic scene.
Rent opened on Off-Broadway on 26th January 1996, the day after Larson tragically died at a very young age. Nevertheless, Rent went on to be a worldwide cultural phenomenon, showing on stages on Broadway, in the West End, and in numerous other countries around the world, and on the big screen in a 2005 motion picture. It has become a fitting tribute to the great Jonathan Larson.
Rent is a story of hopes, dreams, struggle, disease, addiction and, above all, love, in all its beautiful forms: heterosexual love with Roger Lavis, an aspiring musician, and Mimi Marquez, a club dancer, both HIV-stricken; lesbian lovers Maureen Johnson, a redevelopment protestor, and Joanne Jefferson, a lawyer; gay couple, anarchist professor Tom Collins and drag queen Angel Schunard, a beautiful but ultimately tragic match; and Mark Cohen who is dedicated to his career passion for film-making.
Ross Hunter (The Book of Mormon, Rock of Ages, We Will Rock You) (Roger) showed off an incredible rock voice, particularly with ‘One Song Glory’. Philippa Stefani (In The Heights, Grease, Ghost) (Mimi) was sensational throughout and excelled with ‘Out Tonight’. Lucie Jones (Legally Blonde, We Will Rock You, X Factor (TV)) (Maureen) gave a memorable, quirky performance of ‘Over the Moon’. Jones also gives a powerhouse performance along with Shanay Holmes (Jesus Christ Superstar, Close To You, Thriller Live) (Joanne) of ‘Take Me or Leave Me’. Layton Williams’s (Billy Elliot, Thriller Live, Hairspray) (Angel) sassy delivery of ‘Today 4 U’ was also a highlight of the show.
Bruce Guthrie’s 20th anniversary production of Rent gives a new lease of life to Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece. The show is beautifully moving, tragic and inspiring and it is perfectly summed up in the musical number ‘La Vie Bohème B’ with an upbeat, party spirit despite surrounding circumstances and trials, and the current cast are truly phenomenal!
This production of Rent closes at the St James Theatre on 28th January before embarking on a UK tour, for dates and ticket information, click here.