Musical with book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson. This Tony Award and Pulitzer Prizing winning musical - which opened on Broadway on 29 April 1996 and run for twelve yeaars - is an updated version of Puccini's La Boheme that fuses rock, pop, gospel and soul in a new musical set in New York. Its about being young in New York, being brave and being scared, being in love and being in trouble, having hope in today and faith in tomorrow.
ACT 1, SCENE 1 - MARK: "We begin on Christmas Eve with me, Mark, and my room-mate, Roger. We live in an industrial loft on the corner of 11th Street and Avenue B. Old rock and roll posters hang on the walls. They have Roger's picture advertising gigs as CBGB's and the Pyramid Club. We have an illegal wood-burning stove; its exhaust pipe crawls up to a skylight. All of our electrical appliances are plugged into one thick extension cord which snakes its way out of a window. Outside a small tent city has sprung up in the lot next to our building. Inside it's freezing because we have no heat."
Rent - Original West End Production 1998
Previewed 21 April 1998, opened 12 May 1998, closed 30 October 1999 at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London.
The original West End cast for Rent in London featured Anthony Rapp as 'Mark', Adam Pascal as 'Roger', Krysten Cummings as 'Mimi' and Wilson Jermaine Heredia as 'Angel' with Bonny Lockhart as 'Benny', Jessica Tezier as 'Maureen', Jacqui Dubois as 'Joanne' and Jesse L Martin as 'Tom Collins'. Directed by Michael Greif with choreography by Marlies Yearby, sets by Paul S Clay, costumes by Angele Wendt, lighting by Blake Burba and sound by Steve Canyon Kennedy and Jon Weston. Jacqui Dubois's West End credits include the Duke Ellington musical Sophisticated Ladies at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre) in 1992.
"Famously an instant New York hit in 1996, just weeks after the author's death at 35, Jonathan Larson's musical resets Puccini's La Boheme on New York's Lower East Side. The bohemians here are junkies and/or Aids-sufferers and Mimi, Puccini's tragic heroine, is both, although she looks healthy and sexy enough to stop traffic. It's all as believable as the weather forecast and, consequently, often about as moving. Yet, for all its soppiness, the show's raw vitality, classy rock score (Larson's inferior lyrics are largely inaudible) and powerhouse performances, especially from Adam Pascal as the struggling songwriter Mimi wants to melt her heart as well as thaw her tiny hand, make it thrilling... I predict Michael Greif's production will attract all those who love rock concerts and can forgive the author for snatching Mimi back from the big rehab clinic in the sky in what should be her heartbreaking death scene. Full marks to the five-piece band, which can probably be heard several hundred yards away in Piccadilly Circus, and to narrator Anthony Rapp, a Chris Evans lookalike but with charm, and Wilson Jermaine Heredia, sensational as a doomed drag queen. So rush to Rent. It's the hottest property in town." The News of the World
"This is the third megamusical from New York to arrive in the West End in so many weeks, and it lands like a spacecraft full of familiar-looking aliens and signalling wildly as if to say: 'Take me to your hearts, I'm real!' Rent, with music, lyrics and book by the late Jonathan Larson, has won more awards than it has ideas or good songs, but it carries an emotional cargo that could be hard to resist... The thing that most depresses me about Rent is what will most endear it to its fans: it is the way it wears its warm, mushy heart on its sleeve. Yes, you can take a show out of New York, but you cannot take New York out of the show; and even those who love that great city will recognise that mixture of compulsive exuberance, in-your-face, from-your-heart sincerity and well-meaning but oppressive political correctness that sometimes makes you recoil in despair... And yet Rent is not really about rent. The evil of money is not quite the point of it, though Benny, who has acquired a lot, is the enemy: the same Benny who actually offers the place to Roger and Mark rent-free. Clearly, on this point, the show is rather confused... The characters are a mixture of cocky poverty and innocent affluence... Underneath, they are the same: kind, caring, life-affirming and politically correct, huddled together in innocent warmth and the comforting knowledge that they are in a hit show." The Sunday Times
"Does it travel? Quite simply, the answer is yes, chiefly because it's so un-British. Rent might be subtitled 'Kids from Fame die of Aids'. It's about the American dream, about being young and in love and doomed. And, of course, it gushes with sentimentality. Dying in an icy loft is almost fun because your mates rally round and speak straight from the heart about what's really important and how much they love you. Poverty, homelessness and rejection are pretty attractive career options, too, round here. There's no gain without pain. Rent does that very American thing of insisting that you feel good about feeling bad... But it isn't the story that drives Rent, it's the high-octane energy, the free-flowing, off-the-wall spontaneity, the loud and varied score and the fresh, engaging performances of some terrifically talented young performers with fabulous voices... It's not perfect, it's not profound, but it has tremendous appeal for the young at heart - and for anyone who thinks mortgages are boring." The Mail on Sunday
The musical Rent in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre previewed from 21 April 1998, opened on 12 May 1998 and closed on 30 October 1999.
Rent - 1st West End Revival 2001 / 2002
Opened 4 December 2001, Closed 26 January 2002 at the Prince of Wales Theatre
Returned Opened 5 December 2002, Closed 8 March 2003 at the Prince of Wales Theatre
The original 2001 cast for this production featured Adam Rickett as 'Mark', Damien Flood as 'Roger', Debbie Kurup as 'Mimi', Mykal Rand as 'Tom Collins', Neil Couperthwaite as 'Angel', Wendy Mae Brown as 'Joanne' and Helen York as 'Maureen' with Jane Doyle at certain performances. Directed by Paul Kerryson with choreography by Mykal Rand, sets by Kentaur, costumes by Andy Edwards, lighting by Chriss Ellis and sound by Mark Thompson. When this production returned to London in December 2002 the cast featured Caprice as 'Maureen'.
"A few wobbly accents aside (ex-Coronation Street star Adam Rickitt rarely sounds the real McCoy as the nerdy narrator), Paul Kerryson's miked-up production is as punchy and as raunchy as the writing demands. Cross-cutting deftly between intimate exchanges and crowd scenes, he introduces industrial-strength human warmth into a forbidding urban set dominated by steel walkways, brick walls and factory windows. There are a number of stand-out performances: Debbie Kurup as the hot-blooded, doomed Mimi, Neil Couperthwaite as the mincing drag queen Angel and the diva-voiced Wendy Mae Brown as civil liberties lawyer Joanne. But more happily still, there are stand-out songs: in particular, the blissful, gospel-inflected anthem Seasons of Love, which swiftly takes up lodging in your head and refuses to budge. No sick-bag required, after all." The Daily Telegraph
"Rent the Musical is back in the West End for eight weeks before it starts touring. This is the cult American musical which rapidly filled the theatre with loyal young fans who knew the show better than the actors. Now it has been relaunched in the West End with Adam Rickitt in a big new touring production. The show does for Nineties wannabe artists what the musical , Hair, did for the hippies of the Sixties... Director Paul Kerryson's production pumps up the volume... admittedly it is not exactly South Pacific, but already it is rather dated, wincingly PC, and the three dozen songs are instantly forgettable. What makes it worth a look, though, is the scruffy, youthful buzz and its raw power which makes it quite unlike any musical of the past 10 years." The Daily Express
The musical Rent in London at the Prince of Wales Theatre opened on 4 December 2001 and closed on 26 January 2002, returned 5 December 2002 and closed on 8 March 2003.
Rent: Remixed - 2nd West End Revival 2007 to 2008
Previewed 2 October 2007, Opened 15 October 2007, Closed 2 February 2008 at the Duke of York's Theatre in London
A major revival of Jonathan Larson's Broadway hit musical Rent in London - now remixed for a new generation, in a brand new production that presents a modern day version of the musical that promises to amaze and astound audiences with its young and talented cast, handpicked for their street-edge and pop sensibility.
The cast for Rent Remixed features Denise Van Outen as 'Maureen' (up to 22 December 2007), Jessie Wallace as 'Maureen' (from 24 December 2007), Siobhan Donaghy as 'Mimi', Luke Evans as 'Roger', Oliver Thornton as 'Mark', Leon Lopez as 'Tom Collins', Jay Webb as 'Angel', Francesca Jackson as 'Joanne' and Craig Stein as 'Benny'. The production is directed by William Baker with designs by Mark Bailey, lighting by David Howe and sound by Sebastian Frost with the original score re-orchestrated and reworked by William Baker and Steve Anderson.
"It was all about being young and musical, in love, and doomed; its energy and youthful exuberance made it something to sing about. Much has changed since. To begin with, the hype surrounding a show made all the more poignant by its creator, Jonathan Larson, dying young shortly before the opening, has evaporated. The music has also been remixed for a thin orchestra of four and it now feels like an ill-assorted jumble of feeble jingles. The result is variously shrill or syrupy, underpowered, uninvolving, interminable and way past its singby date. None of the performances convinces, all invariably more boyband than boho... As the kooky lesbian heartbreaker Maureen, Denise Van Outen strains hopelessly for raunchiness. A rent not worth collecting." The Mail on Sunday
"Based on La boheme, the 'rock opera' shares Puccini's tragic arc, but it responds to the desolation of drugs and Aids with some high kicks, some vocal belting and a whole lot of life-affirming hand-holding... The director, William Baker has 'remixed' it, so now some characters are British, and songs have been tweaked... But some leopards can't change their diamante spots: it's happy, shiny, yet somehow not fresh. Though you can't fault the message or the feeling, there are surely better ways of expressing them today." The Sunday Times
Rent in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 2 October 2007, opened on 15 October 2007 and closed on 2 February 2008.
Rent - London Revival 2016
Previewed 8 December 2016, Opened 13 December 2016, Closed 28 January 2017 at the St James Theatre in London
A major 20th Anniversary London revival of Jonathan Larson's award-winning musical Rent in London for a strictly limited Christmas and New Year holiday season.
The cast features Ross Hunter as 'Roger Davis'; Billy Cullum as 'Mark Cohen'; Ryan O'Gorman as 'Tom Collins'; Shanay Holmes as 'Joanne Jefferson'; Layton Williams as 'Angel Schunard'; Philippa Stefani as 'Mimi Marquez'; and Lucie Jones as 'Maureen Johnson'; along with Katie Bradley; Jordan Laviniere; Bobbie Little; Christina Modestou; Jenny O'Leary; and Kevin Yates. Directed by Bruce Guthrie with choreography by Lee Proud, set by Anna Fleischle, costumes by Loren Elstein, lighting by Rick Fisher, sound by Mike Walker and video by Andrej Goulding.
When this production opened at the St James Theatre in December 2016, Lyn Gardner in the Guardian thought that "Jonathan Larson’s musical is 20 years young and still rocks effectively in this revival by Bruce Guthrie, played out on a scaffold design by Anna Fleischle that invokes the grimy glamour of New York. A thrilling young cast do an awful lot to disguise the flaws of the show, which is set among a community of artists, drug users and homeless people in the East Village during the mid-1990s... There is not a weak link in the casting." Dominic Maxwell in the Times said that "there have been some so-so revivals of Jonathan Larson's game-changing requiem for New York's bohemia over the past two decades, but this electrifying 20th-anniversary production is not one of them. Lithe but grungy, sexy but sad, it's a gorgeous celebration of this rock musical inspired by the opera La bohème." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard highlighted that "the over-enthusiastic band here drowns out too many of the lyrics... but enough carping, for what is undeniably outstanding about Bruce Guthrie's production is the sheer burning passion of the performances from the entire ensemble." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail commented that "there is a drive, energy and variety to this sung-through, two-hour 40-minute show which is enough to stun you... Like the score, Bruce Guthrie’s show is frenetic and euphoric, shimmying up and down the scaffolding of Anna Fleischle’s industrial design and declaiming from its platforms."
Ross Hunter's West End credits include The Book Of Mormon at the Prince Of Wales Theatre and Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury and Garrick Theatres. Billy Cullum London credits include Jesus Christ Superstar at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory at the Drury Lane Theatre and Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre. Ryan O'Gorman's West End theatre credits include Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre and The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre. Shanay Holmes' London acting credits include Thriller Live at the Lyric Theatre and The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre. Layton Williams's credits include Thriller Live at the Lyric Theatre, he is best known for playing the role of 'Stephen' in the BBC TV comedy Bad Education. Philippa Stefani's West End credits include the original cast in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Lucie Jones' theatre credits include Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre and O2 Arena.
"Twenty years ago this musical by Jonathan Larson burst on the Broadway scene but the young, unknown Larson died just before the opening night. It ran for 12 years and its rock score defined the grungey American Nineties the way Hair did the Sixties. The story is Puccini's La bohème set in New York City's East Village, in a dump of a place peopled by HIV-positive junkies, musicians, transsexuals and artists. AIDS, rent money and lovers' tiffs form the thinnish plot but Bruce Guthrie's pacy direction — with ace choreography by Lee Proud captures the show's sizzling seize-the-day spirit and its undertow of grief. The band churns out chunky chords and soaring rhythms and the vocal solos from the cast are outstanding. Special mention goes to Philippa Stefani's club dancer Mimi and Lucie Jones and Shanay Holmes as the gay lovers. Layton Williams is memorable, too, as the drag queen Angel, whose fabulous legs almost steal the show." The Mail on Sunday
Rent the Musical in London at the St James Theatre previewed from 8 December 2016, opened on 13 December 2016 and closed on 28 January 2017.