Broadway promotional poster
MusicJonathan Larson
LyricsJonathan Larson
Billy Aronson (Additional)
BookJonathan Larson
BasisLa bohème
by Giacomo Puccini
Luigi Illica
Giuseppe Giacosa
PremiereFebruary 13, 1996: New York Theatre Workshop, New York City
  • 1993 Workshop
  • 1996 Off-Broadway
  • 1996 Broadway
  • 1996 Angel Tour
  • 1997 Benny Tour
  • 1997 Collins Tour
  • 1998 West End
  • 2001 UK Tour
  • 2001 West End
  • 2005 International Tour
  • 2007 West End
  • 2009 Mark tour
  • 2016 UK Tour
  • 2016 20th Anniversary US Tour
  • 2021 25th Anniversary US Tour
  • 2024 Australia Tour

Rent (stylized in all caps) is a rock musical with music, lyrics, and book by Jonathan Larson.[1] Loosely based on the 1896 opera La bohème by Giacomo Puccini, Luigi Illica, and Giuseppe Giacosa, it tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in Lower Manhattan's East Village, in the thriving days of the bohemian culture of Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

The musical was first seen in 1993 in a workshop production at New York Theatre Workshop, the off-Broadway theatre which was also where the musical began performances on January 26, 1996; the show's creator, Jonathan Larson, died suddenly of an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, the night before. The musical moved to Broadway's larger Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996.[2]

On Broadway, Rent gained critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Musical. The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008, after 12 years, making it one of the longest-running shows on Broadway.[3] The production grossed over $280 million.[4]

The success of the show led to several national tours and numerous foreign productions. In 2005, it was adapted into a motion picture featuring six of the eight principal cast members from the 1996 stage premiere.[a][b]

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."[5] In 1989, Jonathan Larson, a 29-year-old composer, began collaborating with Aronson on this project, and the two composed together "Santa Fe", "Splatter" (later re-worked into the song "Rent"), and "I Should Tell You". Larson suggested setting the play "amid poverty, homelessness, spunky gay life, drag queens and punk" in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, which happened to be down the street from his Greenwich Village apartment. He 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".[6] Aronson and Larson made an agreement that if the show went to Broadway, Aronson would share in the proceeds and be given credit for "original concept & additional lyrics".[6]

Jonathan Larson focused on composing Rent in the early 1990s, waiting tables at the Moondance Diner to support himself. Over the course of years, Larson wrote hundreds of songs and made many drastic changes to the show, which in its final incarnation contained 42 songs. In the fall of 1992, Larson approached James Nicola, artistic director of New York Theatre Workshop, with a tape and copy of Rent's script. When Rent had its first staged reading at 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.[6]

As of 1994, the New York Theatre Workshop version of Rent featured songs that never made it into the final version, such as:

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.[7]

On January 24, 1996, after the musical's final dress rehearsal before its off-Broadway opening, Larson had his first (and only) newspaper interview; music critic Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times – who had been attracted by the coincidence that the show was debuting exactly 100 years after Puccini's opera – requested the interview. Larson would not live to see Rent's success; he died from an undiagnosed aortic dissection (believed to have resulted from Marfan syndrome) early the next morning, January 25, 1996. Friends and family gathered at the New York Theatre Workshop, and the first preview of Rent became a sing-through of the musical in Larson's memory.[6][8]

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.[2] Due to such overwhelming popularity and a need for a larger theater, Rent moved to Broadway's then-under-renovation Nederlander Theatre on 41st Street and opened on April 29, 1996.[2]

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, a century before Rent's premiere.[9] La Bohème was also about the lives of poor young artists. Tuberculosis, the plague of Puccini's opera, is replaced by HIV/AIDS in Rent; 1800s Paris is replaced by New York's East Village in the late 1980s or early 1990s. 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, but is also partially based on Marcello. Also, Joanne is the only Rent character whose predecessor in La Bohème is a different sex.

La Bohème Rent
Mimì, a seamstress with tuberculosis Mimi Márquez, an erotic dancer with HIV and Roger's girlfriend
Rodolfo, a poet Roger Davis, a songwriter-musician who is HIV positive and Mimi's boyfriend
Marcello, a painter Mark Cohen, an independent Jewish-American filmmaker and Roger's roommate
Musetta, a singer Maureen Johnson, a bisexual performance artist and Joanne's girlfriend
Schaunard, a musician Angel Dumott Schunard, a drag queen and percussionist with AIDS, who is Collins's partner.
Colline, a philosopher Tom Collins, a gay, part-time philosophy professor at New York University and anarchist with AIDS and Angel's partner.
Alcindoro, a state counselor Joanne Jefferson, a lesbian lawyer, who is Maureen's girlfriend (also partially based on Marcello)
Benoît, their 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 draws melodic content directly from "Che gelida manina";[10] "Quando me'n vo'" ("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.[11] "Quando me'n vo'" is paralleled in the first verse of "Take Me or Leave Me", when Maureen describes the way people stare when she walks in the street. It 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 adds, "...that doesn't remind us of 'Musetta's Waltz'." This part of "Musetta's Waltz" is also later used in "Your Eyes", a song Roger writes.

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 musical .[12] 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 a woman. The Mark Cohen character is based on Larson's friends, cinematographer and producer Jonathan Burkhart and documentary filmmaker Eddie Rosenstein.

Playwright Sarah Schulman alleged that Rent bore striking similarities to her novel People in Trouble.[13]

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

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.[14]

Life Café

Many actual locations and events are included in, or are the inspiration for, elements of the musical. Life Café, where the "La Vie Bohème" numbers are set, was an actual restaurant (closed 2013) on 10th Street and Avenue B in the East Village of New York City.[15][16] The riot at the end of the first act is based on the East Village riot in 1988 that arose as a result of the city-imposed curfew in Tompkins Square Park.[16]

"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, 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 say, however, that there was one thing of which he was afraid: Would he lose his dignity? From this question stemmed the first line 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. In the Broadway show, the names of the characters in that particular scene (they introduce themselves) were changed nightly to honor the friends of the cast members who were living with or had died from AIDS.[17]

The scene and song "Life Support" were 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."

Lynn Thomson lawsuit

Lynn Thomson was a dramaturge who was hired by New York Theatre Workshop to help rework Rent. She claimed that between early May and the end of October 1995, she and Larson co-wrote a "new version" of the musical. She sued Jonathan Larson's estate for $40 million and sought 16 percent of the show's royalties, claiming she had written a significant portion of the lyrics and the libretto of the "new version" of Rent.[18]

During the trial, according to a partner in the firm representing the Larson estate, Thomson could not recall the lyrics to the songs that she allegedly wrote, nor the structures of the libretto she claimed to have created.[19] The judge ruled against her and gave Larson's 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.[20]


Act I

Rent at David Nederlander Theatre in Manhattan, New York City

On Christmas Eve in Manhattan's East Village, two roommates—Mark, a filmmaker, and Roger, a rock musician—struggle to stay warm and produce their art ("Tune Up #1"). Mark's mother leaves him a voicemail wishing him a Merry Christmas and trying to comfort him since his ex-girlfriend Maureen dumped him ("Voice Mail #1"). Their friend Tom Collins, a gay anarchist professor of computer-age philosophy at New York University, calls and plans to surprise them at their apartment, but is mugged before entering. At the same time, Mark and Roger's former roommate and friend Benny, who has since become their harsh new landlord, has reneged on an earlier agreement and now demands last year's rent, before shutting down their electrical power ("Tune Up #2"). However, Mark and Roger stubbornly resolve against paying the rent, which they were promised would not be a problem ("Rent"). Meanwhile, Angel, a cross-dressing street drummer (presently out of drag), finds Collins wounded in an alley and tends to him ("You Okay Honey?") - the two are immediately attracted to each other, each learning that the other is HIV positive. It is revealed that Roger also has HIV, which he contracted from his last girlfriend, who died by suicide after learning of her diagnosis, causing Roger to fall into depression. Mark leaves the loft while Roger stays home ("Tune Up #3"), trying to compose on his guitar without success; he wishes desperately to write one last song to be remembered by before he dies ("One Song Glory"). Their neighbor Mimi, an exotic dancer and drug addict, arrives at their apartment asking for help with lighting her candle, flirting with Roger in the process; however, he is clearly hesitant to return her affections ("Light My Candle"). Meanwhile, Joanne, a lawyer and Maureen's girlfriend, receives a voicemail from her parents ("Voice Mail #2").

At last, the missing Collins enters the apartment, presenting Angel, who is now in full drag; she amusingly shares the money she earned from killing an affluent couple's dog by loudly playing nonstop for an hour ("Today 4 U"). Mark comes home, and Benny arrives, speaking of Maureen's upcoming protest against his plans to evict the homeless from a lot where he is hoping to build a cyber arts studio. Benny offers that, if they can successfully convince Maureen to cancel the protest, then Mark and Roger can officially remain rent-free tenants. However, the two rebuff Benny's offer and he leaves ("You'll See"). Mark leaves the loft again to go help Maureen with the sound equipment for the protest, unexpectedly meeting Joanne at the stage. Initially hesitant with each other, the two eventually bond over their shared distrust of Maureen's "gaslighting" and promiscuous behavior ("Tango: Maureen"). Mark then joins Collins and Angel to film their HIV support group meeting ("Life Support"), while Mimi attempts to seduce Roger alone in his apartment ("Out Tonight"). Extremely upset by Mimi's intrusion, he demands that she leave him alone and resists any romantic feelings he may harbor for her ("Another Day"). After Mimi leaves, Roger reflects on his fear of dying an undignified death from AIDS, while the Life Support group echoes his thoughts ("Will I").

Collins, Mark, and Angel protect a homeless woman from police harassment using Mark's camera, but she chastises them, believing their intent was for Mark to make a name for himself from her situation ("On the Street"). To lighten the mood, Collins talks about his dream of escaping New York City to open a restaurant in Santa Fe ("Santa Fe"). Soon, Mark leaves to check up on Roger; while alone, Collins and Angel confess their love for each other ("I'll Cover You"). Joanne hectically prepares for Maureen's show, trying to balance the simultaneous multiple calls ("We're Okay"). Before the performance, Roger apologizes to Mimi, inviting her to come to the protest and the dinner party his friends are having afterwards. At the same time, police, vendors, and homeless people prepare for the protest ("Christmas Bells"). Maureen performs in an avant-garde, if not over-the-top, manner, basing her piece on "Hey Diddle Diddle" ("Over the Moon"). At the post-show party at the Life Café, Benny arrives, criticizing the protest and the group's bohemian lifestyle while also revealing that his wife Alison's Akita, Evita, died due to Angel's actions; Mark and his group defiantly respond by celebrating their status ("La Vie Bohème"). Mimi and Roger each discover that the other is HIV-positive and hesitantly decide to continue their relationship ("I Should Tell You"). At the end of the Act, Joanne explains that Mark and Roger's building has been padlocked and a riot has broken out; Roger and Mimi, unaware of the violence, share their first kiss. The celebration continues ("La Vie Bohème B").

Act II

Cast of Rent performing "Seasons of Love" at Broadway on Broadway, 2005

The cast lines up to sing together before the plot of the second act begins, affirming that one should measure life "in love" ("Seasons of Love"). On New Year's Eve, Mark, Mimi, Roger, Maureen, Joanne, Collins and Angel gather to break back into Mark and Roger's apartment which they have been locked out of. ("Happy New Year"). Once Mark, Joanne and Maureen break in through the window, a voicemail reveals that Mark's footage of the riot has earned him a job offering at a tabloid news company called Buzzline ("Voice Mail #3"). The others finally break through the door just as Benny arrives, saying he wants to call a truce and revealing that Mimi, a former girlfriend of his, convinced him to change his mind. Mimi denies rekindling her relationship with Benny, but Roger is upset, and although they apologize to each other, Mimi goes to her drug dealer for a fix ("Happy New Year B").

Around Valentine's Day, Mark tells the audience that Roger and Mimi have been living together, Collins and Angel are nowhere to be found, and Maureen and Joanne are preparing another protest; during rehearsal, Maureen criticizes Joanne's controlling behavior, while Joanne criticizes Maureen's promiscuity. They break up dramatically following an ultimatum ("Take Me or Leave Me"). Time progresses to spring ("Seasons of Love B"), where Roger and Mimi's relationship is strained by Mimi's escalating heroin usage and Roger's lasting jealousy and suspicion on Benny. Each alone, Roger and Mimi sing of love and loneliness, telling each other how they feel, as they watch Collins nurse Angel, whose health is declining due to AIDS ("Without You"). By the end of the summer, Mark continues to receive calls offering a corporate job at Buzzline ("Voice Mail #4"). A dance is performed representing all the couples' sex lives ("Contact"). At the climax of the number, the two former couples break up, and Angel suddenly dies in Collins' arms. At the funeral, the friends briefly come together to share their memories, with Collins being the last to reminisce ("I'll Cover You [Reprise]"). Mark expresses his fear of being the sole survivor when his friends eventually die of AIDS, and he finally accepts the corporate job offer ("Halloween"). Roger reveals that he is leaving for Santa Fe, which sparks an argument about commitment between him and Mimi, while Maureen and Joanne argue. Collins arrives and admonishes the entire group for fighting on the day of Angel's funeral, causing Maureen and Joanne to reconcile, but not Mimi and Roger. The group share a sad moment, knowing that between deaths and leaving, their close-knit friendships will become undone. Everyone leaves except Mark and Roger, where Mark tries to convince Roger to stay in New York. Roger, unable to handle Mimi's declining health, becomes furious with Mark and leaves. Mimi returns to say goodbye, overhearing everything Roger had said and, terrified, agrees to go to rehab, which Benny pays for ("Goodbye Love"). Collins is forcibly removed from the church for being unable to pay for Angel's funeral; Benny shows compassion by paying and offering Mark and Collins drinks. Collins accepts, causing the latter and Benny to rekindle their old friendship, but Mark turns down the offer due to work commitments.

Some time later, both Mark and Roger simultaneously reach an artistic epiphany, as Roger finds his song in Mimi and Mark finds his film in Angel's memory; Roger decides to return to New York in time for Christmas, while Mark quits his job to devote his efforts to working on his own film ("What You Own"). The characters' parents, concerned and confused about their respective situations, leave several worried messages on their answering machines ("Voice Mail #5"). On Christmas Eve, exactly one year having passed, Mark prepares to screen his now-completed film to his friends. Roger has written his song, but apparently, Mimi is missing, and no one has seen her. Benny's wife, discovering Benny's past relationship with Mimi, has pulled him out of the East Village. The power suddenly blows and Collins enters with handfuls of cash, revealing that he reprogrammed an ATM at a grocery store to provide money to anybody with the code 'ANGEL'. Maureen and Joanne abruptly enter carrying Mimi, who had been homeless and is now weak and close to death. She begins to fade, telling Roger that she loves him ("Finale"). Roger tells her to hold on as he plays her the song he wrote for her, revealing the depth of his feelings for her ("Your Eyes"). Mimi appears to die, but abruptly awakens, claiming to have been heading into a white light before a vision of Angel appeared, telling her to go back and stay with Roger. The remaining friends gather together in a final moment of shared happiness and resolve to enjoy whatever time they have left with each other, affirming that there is "no day but today" ("Finale B").[21]

Musical numbers


Main characters

Minor characters

There are also many other non-named roles such as Cops, Bohemians, Vendors, Homeless People.

In professional productions, all the minor characters are played by the seven members of the ensemble. The usual doubling is as follows:


Rent received several awards including a Pulitzer Prize and four Tony Awards.[24]

Critical reception of Rent was positive not only for its acting and musical components, but also for its representation of HIV-positive individuals. Many critics praised the portrayal of characters such as Angel and Collins as being happy, with positive outlooks on life, rather than being resigned to death.[25] While critics and theatre patrons had largely positive reviews of the show, it was criticized for its stereotypically negative portrayal of lesbian characters and the "glamourization" of the East Village in the late 1980s.[26]

Billy Aronson said, "For the record, although I was ambivalent about Jonathan's ideas for Rent when we were working together on it, I have come to love the show. And as tragic as it is that he didn't live to see his work become a huge success, I believe he knew it would be. In our last conversation I asked how the show was going and he said, with complete assurance, that it was incredible."[5]

Cultural impact and legacy

The song "Seasons of Love" became a successful pop song and often is performed on its own. Because of its connection to New Years and looking back at times past, it is sometimes performed at graduations or school holiday programs.


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.[27] 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.[27][28] 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.

Popular culture references

The film Team America: World Police includes a character who plays a lead role in Lease, a Broadway musical parody of Rent.[29] In 2017, the song "Out Tonight" was covered by the characters Josie and the Pussycats in an episode of the television series Riverdale.[30] Satirist Randy Rainbow parodied "Seasons of Love" as "Seasons of Trump" for his 2021 look back at the Trump administration,[31] and "Tango: Maureen" as "Tango: Vaccine" to highlight purveyors of COVID-19 misinformation.[32]

Rent has also been referenced in other musicals. Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch wears a Rent T-shirt and speaks of his aspiration to play the role of Angel.[33] The off-Broadway musical revue 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 Bohème").[34] Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer and writer of the Broadway show Hamilton, has cited Rent as a main source of inspiration.[35] He also referenced the show in a verse of the song "Wrote My Way Out" on The Hamilton Mixtape in the line "Running out of time like I'm Jonathan Larson's rent check".


Character New York Theatre Workshop
Original Broadway Cast[36]
Original London Cast
Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway
Hollywood Bowl
Off-Broadway Revival[37]
20th Anniversary National Tour[38]
Rent: Live


Mark Cohen Anthony Rapp Adam Kantor Skylar Astin Adam Chanler-Berat Danny Kornfeld Jordan Fisher
Roger Davis Tony Hoylen Adam Pascal Will Chase Aaron Tveit Matt Shingledecker
Anthony Fedorov
Kaleb Wells Brennin Hunt
Mimi Márquez Daphne Rubin-Vega Krysten Cummings Renée Elise Goldsberry Vanessa Hudgens Arianda Fernandez
Natalie Wachen
Skyler Volpe Tinashe
Tom Collins Pat Briggs Jesse L. Martin Michael McElroy Wayne Brady Nicholas Christopher
Brandon Victor Dixon
Aaron Harrington Brandon Victor Dixon
Angel Dumott Schunard Mark Setlock Wilson Jermaine Heredia Justin Johnston Telly Leung MJ Rodriguez David Merino James Leyva
Maureen Johnson Sarah Knowlton Idina Menzel Jessica Tezier Eden Espinosa Nicole Scherzinger Annaleigh Ashford Katie LaMark Vanessa Hudgens
Joanne Jefferson Shelley Dickinson Fredi Walker Jacqui Dubois Tracie Thoms Corbin Reid
Shaleah Adkisson
Jasmine Easler Kiersey Clemons
Benjamin Coffin III Michael Potts Taye Diggs Bonny Lockhart Rodney Hicks Collins Pennie Ephraim Sykes Christian Thompson Mario

Notable replacements

Broadway (1996–2008)

1st, 2nd & 3rd US National Tours (1996–2010)


New York workshops and Off-Broadway production

Rent had its first staged reading at New York Theatre Workshop in March 1993.[6] 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 in 1996, again at 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."[39] 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," while the New York Times similarly called it "a rock opera for our time, a Hair for the 90s."[40] The show proved extremely successful off-Broadway, selling out all of its performances at the 150-seat theatre.[2]

Original Broadway production

Original Broadway cast, 1996

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.[2] 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 same day-of-performance $20 tickets, helped to increase the popularity of musical theater amongst the younger generation.[41] 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).[42]

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 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.[43]

Rent closed on September 7, 2008, after a 12-year run and 5,123 performances,[44] making it the seventh-longest-running Broadway show at that time, and currently the eleventh-longest-running Broadway show.[45] The production grossed over $280 million.[4]

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.[44] 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.

North American touring productions

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 at the Shubert Theatre in Boston, where it ran for approximately six months.[46] Anthony Rapp joined the cast for the Chicago run, and Daphne Rubin-Vega joined for the Los Angeles run. The tour finished in San Francisco in September 1999. Other members of the Angel cast included Carrie Hamilton, Amy Spanger, Luther Creek, Kristoffer Cusick, Lisa Simone, Queen Esther, and Tony Vincent.

The Benny Tour began in July 1997 in San Diego, California, 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, California. It originally featured Neil Patrick Harris as Mark Cohen in his first musical theatre role. The Benny tour generally played shorter stops and often-smaller markets than the Angel Tour did. Other cast members included Wilson Cruz and d'Monroe.

Tours ran each season from 2005 to 2008. Cast members throughout the run included Aaron Tveit, Ava Gaudet, Declan Bennett, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Constantine Maroulis, Dan Rosenbaum, Heinz Winckler, Anwar Robinson, Christine Dwyer, Caissie Levy and Karen Olivo. In 2009, a national tour starring Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, reprising their original Broadway roles, launched in Cleveland, Ohio. Original Broadway Cast member Gwen Steward also appeared, alongside Michael McElroy as Collins, The tour ended on February 7, 2010, in Sacramento, California.[47] A 20th anniversary non-Equity touring production began in Bloomington, Indiana on September 12, 2016,[48][49] and ran through March 1, 2020.[50] A 25th anniversary non-Equity tour kicked off on September 30, 2021, at the Carson Center in Paducah, Kentucky.[51]

UK productions

The show made its UK premiere on April 21, 1998, at the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre and officially opened on May 12, 1998. The original cast included Krysten Cummings as Mimi Marquez, Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Angel Schunard, Bonny Lockhart as Benny, Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins, Adam Pascal as Roger Davis, Anthony Rapp as Mark Cohen, and Jessica Tezier as Maureen Johnson. The show closed on October 30, 1999, after one-and-a-half years. Limited revivals took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre from December 4, 2001, to January 6, 2002; December 6, 2002, to March 1, 2003 (featuring Adam Rickett as Mark and Caprice as Maureen). There was also a successful production for a limited run in Manchester in 2006 with an additional 'goodbye' performance in 2008 from the Manchester cast.

On October 16, 2007, the heavily revised production titled Rent Remixed opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in London's West End. Directed by William Baker, it was set 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.[52] 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."[53] The production closed on February 2, 2008.[54]

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 Act I finale). The rehaul of the score was masterminded by Steve Anderson and featured radically rearranged versions of Out Tonight, Today 4 U, Over the Moon and Happy New Year.

A one-off Rent - The 20th Anniversary Concert was held at the Blackpool Opera house Monday November 11, 2013. A 20th anniversary tour opened at Theatr Clwyd in October 2016 before playing a two-month run at the St James Theatre, London. The cast included Layton Williams as Angel and Lucie Jones as Maureen.[55] The production then continued to tour the UK.[56]

In 2018 an immersive production of RENT premiered at Frogmore Paper Mill in Apsley, Hemel Hempstead.[57] The cast included Aran Macrae (Roger), Connor Dyer (Mark) and Lizzie Emery (Mimi). The show opened on July 10, 2018, and ran until July 28.

In 2020, the musical was revived at Manchester's Hope Mill Theatre for a limited run from October 30 to December 6. The production was originally scheduled to begin in late July but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[58] Due to the ongoing pandemic, the audience was socially distanced and measures were in place around the theatre.[59] The cast included Blake Patrick Anderson (Mark), Tom Francis (Roger), Maiya Quansah-Breed (Mimi), Dom Hartley-Harris (Collins), Alex Thomas-Smith (Angel), Millie O'Connell (Maureen), Jocasta Almgill (Joanne), and Ahmed Hamad (Benny). The production was professionally filmed, which was broadcast from November 27 to December 20 on weekends.[60]

Off-Broadway revival

The show was revived off-Broadway at Stage 1 of New World Stages with previews starting July 14, 2011, and a scheduled opening of August 11, 2011. This was the first New York Revival of the show since the original production closed less than three years earlier. The production was directed by Rent's original director Michael Greif. Almost the entire show was different from the original, yet the reinvention did not please the critics, who complained that the new actors did not have a feel for the characters they were playing and that it made the show feel contrived.[61] The off-Broadway production of Rent closed on September 9, 2012.[62]

Additional productions

In 1999, an Australian production featured Justin Smith as Mark, Rodger Corser as Roger and Christine Anu as Mimi. The tour began in Sydney and finished in Melbourne. A production in Perth, Western Australia was mounted in 2007 and featured Anthony Callea as Mark, Tim Campbell as Roger, Courtney Act as Angel and Nikki Webster as Maureen. Another Australian production began in Brisbane in January 2024 and will end in Canberra in June 2024. The cast features Nick Afoa as Collins, Martha Berhane as Mimi, Carl De Villa as Angel, Tana Laga'aia as Benny, Noah Mullins as Mark, Calista Nelmes as Maureen, Jerrod Smith as Roger, and Thndo as Joanne.[63]

The Dublin production had an extended run at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin in 2000. It starred Sean Pol McGreevy as Mark, Rachel Tucker as Maureen and Allyson Brown as Mimi under the direction of Phil Willmot.

The Swedish production premiered in January, 2001 at Göta Lejon, Sweden, with an extensive national tour the following year. Sarah Dawn Finer played Joanne.[64] The first Swedish production had an altered ending, later productions has kept the original ending.

Rent veteran Neil Patrick Harris directed a production at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA. The production played a three night engagement, August 6–8, 2010. The cast included Vanessa Hudgens as Mimi, Aaron Tveit as Roger, Skylar Astin as Mark, Wayne Brady as Collins, Telly Leung as Angel, Tracie Thoms as Joanne, Nicole Scherzinger as Maureen, Collins Pennie as Benny, and Gwen Stewart as Seasons of Love soloist (and additional roles).[65]

In 2017, the first tour for the German speaking countries was mounted by Berlin theatrical producer Boris Hilbert [de]. The leading German musical theatre magazine musicals - Das Musicalmagazin described the production as "in terms of vocal quality, the performance was one of the best that has ever been seen in Germany" (issue 188 of Dec 2017). The show traveled Germany, Austria and Switzerland and was directed by the British opera director Walter Sutcliffe.[66]

Rent: School Edition

In 2007, an abridged edition of Rent was made available to five non-professional acting groups in the United States for production, primarily adapted by Jennifer and Peter Jones of Stuart, Florida's StarStruck Theatre. Billed as Rent: School Edition, this version omits the song "Contact" and eliminates some of the coarse language and tones down some public displays of affection in the original.[67] Shorewood High School in Shorewood, Wisconsin, became the first high school to perform an early version of the adaptation in May 2006. The high school was selected to present a workshop performance as part of Music Theatre International's work to adapt the musical for younger actors and potentially more conservative audiences.[68] As of 2008, Music Theatre International began licensing "Rent School Edition" for performances by schools and non-professional amateur theaters in the United States and around the world.

International productions

Rent has been performed in countries around the world, including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Greece, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, Australia, Guam, New Zealand, Israel, Puerto Rico, Austria, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Czech Republic, Colombia, Turkey and Guatemala.

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


Rent (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Main article: Rent (albums)

A cast recording of the original Broadway cast recording was released in 1996; it features all the music of the show on a double-disc "complete recording" collection along with a remixed version of the song "Seasons of Love" featuring Stevie Wonder.[69] A second one-disc album was released in 1999 containing highlights from the original cast album.[70]

Rent: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Main article: Rent (film) § Soundtrack

The 2005 film version (see below) also resulted in a double-disc cast recording of the complete score used in the movie.[71] The two-disc soundtrack, contained 28 tracks, and was originally packaged in eight different slipcovers, each featuring one of the eight most prominent characters in the film.

Rent (Original Soundtrack of the Fox Live Television Event)

The 2019 Fox Live Television Event, featuring Jordan Fisher as Mark and Brennin Hunt as Roger, directed by Micheal Greif and Alex Rudzinski and performed at Fox Studios, was recorded and is available to listen to on Spotify.

Other Recordings

There are also many foreign cast recordings of international productions of the show.[72]



Main article: Rent (film)

In 2005, Rent was adapted into a movie directed by Chris Columbus with a screenplay by Stephen Chbosky. With the exception of Daphne Rubin-Vega (who was pregnant at the time of filming) and Fredi Walker (who felt she was too old for her role), who played Mimi and Joanne respectively, the original Broadway cast members reprised the principal roles.[a][b] Released on November 23, 2005, the film remained in the box office top ten for three weeks, receiving mixed reviews. Several plot elements were changed slightly, and some songs were changed to spoken dialogue or cut entirely for the film. The soundtrack was produced by Rob Cavallo, engineered by Doug McKean and features session musicians Jamie Muhoberac, Tim Pierce and Dorian Crozier.

Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway

Main article: Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway

The final performance of the Broadway production of Rent, which took place on September 7, 2008, was filmed live and, cut together with close-up footage from a day of filming in August of the same year, was 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.[75]

Rent: Live

Main article: Rent: Live

In May 2017, Fox announced plans to air a live television production of Rent. It aired Sunday, January 27, 2019, and starred Jordan Fisher as Mark, Brennin Hunt as Roger, Tinashe as Mimi, Brandon Victor Dixon as Tom, Valentina as Angel, Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen, Kiersey Clemons as Joanne, and Mario as Benny. While the filmed version was billed as a live-to-the-public performance, Brennin Hunt, who played Roger, broke his foot before the final act, and the network was forced to air an earlier dress rehearsal of act 2.

Related documentaries

No Day But Today: The Story of Rent

Jeffrey Schwarz directed this 2006 documentary about the musical Rent, from Jonathan Larson's original idea to his tragic passing and, finally, to the adaptation of Rent into a major motion picture.[76] The nearly two-hour documentary was included in a two-disc special edition of the DVD release of the 2005 film.[77]

Revolution Rent

Filmmaker and Rent alumnus Andy Señor Jr. produced this documentary, following his journey producing the musical in Cuba in late 2014. This production of Rent was the first Broadway musical to premiere in Cuba since diplomatic relations between the two countries became strained during the Cold War. The documentary was released March 13, 2020.[78]

Awards and honors

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Outcome
1996 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Book of a Musical Jonathan Larson Won
Best Original Score Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Adam Pascal Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Daphne Rubin-Vega Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Wilson Jermaine Heredia Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Idina Menzel Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Michael Greif Nominated
Best Choreography Marlies Yearby Nominated
Best Lighting Design Blake Burba Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Jonathan Larson Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Adam Pascal Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Daphne Rubin-Vega Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Wilson Jermaine Heredia Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical Michael Greif Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Steve Skinner Won
Outstanding Lyrics Jonathan Larson Won
Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Costume Design Angela Wendt Nominated
Pulitzer Prize for Drama Won
Theatre World Award Adam Pascal Won
Daphne Rubin-Vega Won
1997 Grammy Award Best Musical Show Album Nominated

Original West End production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1999 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Krysten Cummings Nominated
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical Wilson Jermaine Heredia Nominated


  1. ^ a b The Broadway originator in the role of Mimi, Daphne Rubin-Vega, was pregnant at the time of the movie's casting and filming.[73]
  2. ^ a b The Broadway originator in the role of Joanne, Fredi Walker, had been the oldest of the main cast when the stage production premiered in 1996 – older at that time than some of the main cast were by the time of the film. She stated that she was not offered the film role due to her age, but did request that the producers cast an actress of African descent for the film.[74]


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