The rock musical, “RENT” is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a new touring company of the late Jonathon Larson’s 1996 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical. It plays at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre February 21-26 get tickets here.
Evan Ensign has restaged the production, based on the original Tony-nominated direction by Michael Greif, with Marlies Yearby as choreographer, also nominated for a Tony Award for her work on the original production. There’s a new cast and several performers are making their bow in a touring company.
Loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Bohème,” “RENT” shares a year in the lives of a group of young Bohemian artists dealing with love, loss and AIDS, as they struggle to survive and succeed in New York City’s East Village.
The show made its world premiere off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop on February 13, 1996 to rave reviews. A couple of months later, it transferred to Broadway, where it won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is one of only five musicals to win both awards.
Composer/playwright Jonathan Larson died the day before “RENT,” was to begin previews Off-Broadway at the New York Theater Workshop. Richard Kornberg was the publicist, and Korny, as journalists call him, immediately pitched the story to the New York Times and other high-profile media outlets. Overnight, “RENT” became the show to see. When the musical moved to Broadway, its opening night attracted a star-studded audience, most notably Michele Pfeiffer and George Clooney.
“Seasons of Love” was the first song from a Broadway musical to appear on Billboard’s Hot 100 since Madonna’s cinematic version of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” And several members of the original cast, virtually unknown at that time, went on to become celebrities. Taye Diggs was already known to movie audiences; he had co-starred with Angela Bassett in the 1998 film, “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” He now stars as a detective in the TNT series, “Murder in the First.” Idina Menzel went on to win a Tony for her performance as Elphaba in “Wicked.” She also starred with “RENT” alumnus Anthony Rapp, in the Broadway show, “If/Then.” Other members of the original cast have been seen on Broadway, television and in films.
“RENT” closed on September 2008, after a 12-year run and 5,123 performances. The production grossed over $280 million.
Surely, somewhere in the firmament, Larson is perched on a star and whispering to a fly-by angel. “I did that!”
“RENT” plays at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre February 21-26 get tickets here.
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