Inspired by Puccini's La Bohême, Rent updates the plot to 1990s New York where a community of East End squatters battle to fulfil their aspirations against the reality of rent demands and Aids. Rent originally opened at the New York Theatre Workshop on 13 February 1996 before moving on 29 April that year to Broadway's Nederlander Theatre, where it is still running.
The death of 35-year-old creator and composer Larson, who died of an aortic aneurysm shortly after the final dress rehearsal, transformed the musical into a cause celebre amongst New York theatregoers. The show received rave reviews and immediately became a sell-out hit, with audiences waiting months for tickets and many fanatical 'Rentheads' queueing nightly to see the show again and again.
Despite the fanfare surrounding its original West End transfer and a truckload of awards - including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and four Tonys including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book - Rent failed to sufficiently win over London critics on its initial outing. It opened at the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre on 12 May 1998 and closed on 30 October 1999 after a run of 18 months.
However, since its withdrawal from the West End, Rent has attracted a wider UK audience on an extended regional tour which launched in February 2001 in Leicester. Currently in Wimbledon, the tour continues now to Nottingham, Cambridge, Bromley, Blackpool and Aberdeen. It was then due to visit Norwich in December, but will instead come back into the West End, for its season at the Prince of Wales.
The current UK production of Rent sees former Coronation Street Adam Rickitt (as Mark) in his theatrical debut. Rickitt's singing credits include the pop single "I Breathe Again". Rickitt is joined in the cast by Wendy Mae Brown, Damien Flood, Debbie Kurup, Jason Pennycooke, Mykal Rand and Lucy Williamson. Rent is directed by Paul Kerryson.
- by Terri Paddock