‘Rent’ is a musical which has been immensely popular and is running for its eleventh year now. It is based on the Opera La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini. ‘Rent’ is set to become the second longest running show currently in Broadway when ‘Beauty and the Beast’ ends its run on July 29, 2007.
‘Rent’ was one of the first musicals to treat subjects like homosexuality, transsexuals and AIDS. It is a rock musical with an enduring look at the lives of several characters living in the East Side. These characters struggle to survive the harsh realities of their lives. Jonathan Larson wrote the book for Broadway and he also wrote the lyrics and composed the music. Unfortunately he died before he was able to see the success of his play.
The story of ‘Rent’ deals with the lives of several characters. We see Mark Cohen, a film maker and also the narrator of the story and Roger Davis, a musician who shares the Rent with Mark. Mark has just lost his girlfriend Maureen to another woman Joanne. Mimi is a dancer and who falls in love with Roger. Other characters include Angel, who is a gay cross dressing drummer, and Tom Collins who is also gay, a philosophy teacher and Angel’s love interest. All the characters, except Mark, have AIDS.
The story has been altered a bit to suit contemporary life. Puccini’s La Boheme was based in the late 1800’s. Larson rewrote the play and changed the characters to suit the state of affairs in the 1980’s. The character’s names and occupations were changed, yet are a reflection of the original characters. Mimi was a seamstress with tuberculosis in the original, and now is a dancer with AIDS. Rudolfo the poet has become Roger the musician and Marcello the painter is now Mark the filmmaker.
The story brings together people in love, like Mimi and Roger, Angel and Tom, and also Maureen and Joanne. But it also shows the reality that AIDS leads to death no matter what. Angel gets really sick as the play progresses and dies leaving behind a heartbroken Tom who professes his undying love at her funeral. At the end of the play, Mimi is found sick and delirious lying on the street by Maureen and Joanne who bring her to Roger’s apartment. She expresses her love to Roger who in turn sings her a song he had written inspired by her. After the song she turns limp and everyone believes her to be dead but after a while she wakes up again and claims she saw Angel telling her to turn back. Roger and Mimi are overjoyed at being able to find each other and everyone is reminded that it is important to live each day to the fullest as there is “no day but today”.
Directed by Michael Greif, ‘Rent’ has become a cult musical of sorts and getting tickets is no easy task. You could get your tickets directly from the box office at the Nederlander Theater, or book your tickets online or by phone.
By Al Terry
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