Saturday, September 6, 2008

No Day But Today.

I’m not going to pretend to be coy about this. RENT is easily and by far my favorite musical, and it closes on Broadway this weekend. It will be the seventh longest show in Broadway History, ultimately having played 5,124 performances and 16 previews. I’m finding it difficult to put into words what it was like living in New York City back in 1996 and experiencing this phenomenon take place. There was an electricity about it, you could feel that this was history in the making.

For those who have forgotten, here’s a recap. Back in January of 1996, Jonathan Larson’s musical RENT was opening Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop. After the dress rehearsal, book/music/lyrics writer Larson did an interview for the NY Times, went home, put on a pot of tea, collapsed and died of an aortic aneurism. His untimely death immediately gave the show an immense amount of publicity and many believe that event gave the production its transfer to Broadway. I have to agree that the show’s transfer to Broadway the next month was because of the publicity Mr. Larson’s death received, but I firmly believe this show would have gotten to Broadway anyway. It did win the Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical, Best Score of a Musical and Best Musical. Jonathan Larson also won the Pulitzer Prize for literature that year, and the show is still one of a handful of musicals to do so.

It was strange and interesting time to live in New York, it had been so long since one show got everyone talking. The entire city was talking about it, all the time. The actors were everywhere, on posters, magazines, making appearances, you couldn’t get away from the show.
Adam Pascal and Daphne Rubin-Vega were on the cover of Newsweek! There was even a Rent boutique inside Bloomingdales featuring clothes inspired by the show, which is unheard of. Not only were so many people just loving the show and talking about it everywhere, it was impossible to get tickets to. The producers brilliantly came up with an idea, they would put the first two rows of the orchestra on sale two hours before the show for $20! Students could finally see a show and be able to afford it. Back then before they put a lottery system in place, people would line up the night before for these tickets, and sit in line overnight to get in. It sounds a little crazy, but it was an incredible bonding experience. You’d be camping on a street in Manhattan and get to know the other 20-30 people in line with you. You’d be exhausted by the time you’d get your ticket in hand but you’d all would be friends. And then two hours later, with no sleep and adrenaline pumping you’d see, no… experience this incredible show about love and living in the present from the front of the theater with the actors onstage often breaking the fourth wall and singing to you directly.

It was amazing.

I am much more torn up about this show closing than I ever expected, that’s how effective it is. It’s spent twelve wonderful years on Broadway, so it hasn’t been cut short in any way. It’s simply the end of an era. If you’re a fan of the show, then tomorrow let yourself be a little sentimental and light a candle for the show.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

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