First seen in New York in 1996, Rent received its West End premiere at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 12 May 1998 and closed on 30 October 1999 after a run of 18 months. In 2002, it embarked on an extensive UK-wide tour, coming back into the West End for a limited two-month season at the Prince of Wales theatre last Christmas before the arrival of The Full Monty.
In its last London incarnation, directed by Paul Kerryson, Rent starred former Coronation Street Adam Rickitt (in his theatrical debut) along with Debbie Kurup and Damien Flood. Kurup (pictured) will reprise her role as Mimi for the final West End run, though further casting has yet to be confirmed.
Inspired by Puccini's La Bohême, Larson's musical 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.
The death of 35-year-old creator and composer Larson, who died of an aortic aneurysm shortly after the final dress rehearsal of Rent's debut, 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 on Broadway, where it won, amongst other accolades, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and four Tonys including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.
The Full Monty, the American musical based on the hit British film of the same name, opened at the Prince of Wales theatre on 12 March 2002 (previews from 27 February) and will now close on 23 November 2002. Rent will initially be booking at the theatre up to March 2003.
- by Terri Paddock