The lease is up on “Rent.” One of the longest-running youth-oriented shows on Broadway will close June 1, the show’s representatives confirmed.
The Pulitzer- and Tony-winning musical — an update of Puccini’s opera “La Bohème” — will have staged 5,012 performances and 16 previews over its 12-year run, making it the seventh-longest-running show in Broadway history. Sadly, creator Jonathan Larson died after the last dress rehearsal before the show’s off-Broadway debut in 1996, and he never saw the success of the show he had been working on for seven years. “Rent” moved to Broadway just two months later, went on to inspire an obsessive fan following known as “Rent”-heads and spawned the 2005 movie adaptation starring Rosario Dawson and Taye Diggs.
Joey Fatone , Drew Lachey, Spice Girl Melanie Brown and “American Idol” alumnae Tamyra Gray and Frenchie Davis all guest-starred as various members of the rock opera’s group of New York City 20-somethings: documentary maker Mark, exotic dancer Mimi, musician Roger, performance artist Maureen, lawyer Joanne, cross-dresser Angel, philosophy professor/ activist Collins and landlord Benny.
“The intimacy of these lives [is] universal,” said original castmember Anthony Rapp, who played Mark onstage and in the film.
The characters’ intertwining stories were transported from late 19th-century Paris to New York’s Alphabet City in the late 1980s. When it opened in 1996, the most groundbreaking aspect of “Rent” was that instead of tuberculosis, the characters were in danger of contracting and dying from AIDS.
“The situation’s changed, the city’s changed, but those themes are still out there,” said Jesse L. Martin, who played Collins in the original cast and in the flick. “Poverty, depression, homelessness, AIDS, drug abuse, not being able to find a family in this great big city, in this great big world, being disenfranchised … ”
“Being disenfranchised is essentially what growing up is all about,” laughed Wilson Jermain Heredia, who played Angel onstage and on the big screen.
“It’s not preachy,” said Dawson, who played Mimi in the movie version. “It’s just people experiencing life and being honest about it and sharing it with people. People falling in love, people dying. All the different sides of life, all the spectrums of life.”
Keeping in line with the budget of the young people the play depicted, “Rent” helped build its teen and college-age following by offering cheap tickets for seats in the front rows. All you had to do was line up overnight (or even for two nights) to get a shot at the discounted tickets (which later became available via a lottery system).
“I spent most of my college years sleeping on the streets for cheap tickets for ‘Rent,’ ” one repeat “Rent”-head named Krista told MTV News.
When “Rent” first launched in 1996, it cornered the market on young audiences, and it ultimately grossed more than $280 million. But in recent years it has faced competition for that same demographic from other shows, such as “Hairspray,” “Legally Blonde” and “Spring Awakening.”
“Something happened with us in the fall, in which we were consistently selling less tickets than we were last year and three or four years ago,” producer Jeffrey Seller told The New York Times. Then again, he said, when the show first began, “I couldn’t have foreseen that we’d get to five years.”
“I’m so proud that we had a generation that took in our show,” said original castmember Idina Menzel, who played Maureen in the film as well. “Young people who recognized themselves [in our characters], and learned that their sexuality, their race is OK — I’m just proud to be in something like that.”
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