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The opera La bohème by Giacomo Puccini inspired the rock musical Rent. Jonathan Larson wrote the music and lyrics for the musical. It was shown for the first time in 1994 in a three-week New York Theatre Workshop workshop.
The musical is about a group of young artists who struggle financially in the East Village of New York City during the height of the Bohemian Alphabet City scene when HIV/AIDS was a significant health concern.
The musical's first home after it opened on January 25, 1996, was this same Off-Broadway theater. The musical was a hit and won a Pulitzer Prize and an Obie Award. On April 29, 1996, the show moved to the Nederlander Theater on Broadway.
Based on Puccini's famous opera La Bohème, Rent shows the ups and downs of a year in the lives of a group of poor artists living in Manhattan's East Village. Mark wants to be a filmmaker but is having trouble finding his place in the world. Roger, Mark's roommate, is a musician who has HIV and is worried about how he will leave his mark before he dies.
As young people with HIV, Mimi and Angel try to find true love while dealing with the harsh reality of life. Meanwhile, Mimi's girlfriend Joanne tries to get her wild-child girlfriend Maureen to be faithful.
The musical paints a startlingly real and emotional portrait of the gritty bohemian culture in New York City in the late 1980s when HIV/AIDS was a concern.
On January 24, 1996, after the last dress rehearsal for the musical before its off-Broadway opening, music critic Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times interviewed Larson. Tommasini was interested in Larson because the musical opened precisely 100 years after Puccini's opera. Larson died early in the morning of January 25, 1996, from an aortic aneurysm that had not been diagnosed - unfortunately, he could not see how well Rent did.
The first showing of Rent had to be canceled, so Larson's friends and family went to the theater and watched the actors do a sing-through of the show in his honor.
Rent moved to the 41st Street Nederlander Theatre on Broadway on April 29, 1996, because of its popularity and needed a more significant theater. The Nederlander Theatre had been empty for a while. On Broadway, the show was praised by critics and became famous through word of mouth.