Jonathan Larson's iconic rock musical "Rent" premiered on Broadway 17 years ago today, introducing musical theater nerds everywhere to life in downtown New York City. Taking inspiration from Giacomo Puccini's opera "La Bohème," "Rent" revamped the classic tale for the contemporary era, changing 1800s Paris to the 1980s East Village, where subject matter included HIV/AIDS, homosexuality and drug addiction, mixed with classic celebrations of love, friendship, art and freedom.
Larson wrote the production in the 1990s while working as a waiter at the Moondance Diner. He later told the New York Times about his early dream to free Broadway from its stuffy stigma and "to bring musical theater to the MTV generation." Ben Brantley's 1996 New York Times review called it an "exhilarating, landmark rock opera," and other reviews at the time were equally gushing, although Marc Spitz refers to it as "a cloying load of pigshit" in his latest memoir, Poseur. (Well, you can't win 'em all, can you?)
The iconic musical was nominated for 10 Tony awards in 1996, and nabbed "Best Musical" and "Best Original Score." Songs like "Seasons of Love," "La Vie Bohème" and "Light My Candle" have become emblematic of the starving artist's pursuit of creativity and passion at all costs. Racy, tragic, heartwarming and wildly catchy all at once, "Rent" is arguably the most unlikely Broadway success of all time.
Happy Birthday to Roger, Mimi and the entire gang of "Rent"! No day but today, right? Let us know your favorite song in the comments.