April 21, 1998: Rent debuts on the London stage

Rent is a rock musical with music, lyrics and book by Jonathan Larson, loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

The musical was first seen in a workshop production at New York Theatre Workshop in 1993. This same Off-Broadway theatre was also the musical’s initial home following its official 1996 opening. 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 Off-Broadway premiere. The show won a Pulitzer Prize, and the production was a hit. The musical moved to Broadway’s larger Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996 where the show gained critical acclaim and won a Tony Award for Best Musical among other awards.

Rent-1998The show made its UK premiere on 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 Benjamin Coffin III, 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.

Rent-1998

The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008 after a 12-year run of 5,123 performances. On February 14, 2016, the musical Wicked surpassed Rent’s number of performances with a 2pm matinee, pushing Rent from the tenth- to eleventh-longest-running Broadway show. The production grossed over $280 million.

The success of the show led to several national tours and numerous foreign productions. In 2005, it was adapted into a motion picture featuring most of the original cast members. [Wikipedia]

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