Rent - Musical Essay

1791 Words Jan 30th, 2000 8 Pages
There's a scene in the new musical "RENT" that may be the quintessential romantic moment of the '90s. Roger, a struggling rock musician, and Mimi, a junkie who's a dancer at an S/M club, are having a lovers' quarrel when their beepers go off and each takes out a bottle of pills. It's the signal for an "AZT break," and suddenly they realize that they're both HIV-positive. Clinch. Love duet. If you don't think this is romantic, consider that Jonathan Larson's sensational musical is inspired by Puccini's opera "La
Boheme," in which the lovers Mimi and Rodolfo are tragically separated by her death from tuberculosis.
Different age, different plague. Larson has updated
Puccini's end-of-19th-century Left Bank bohemians to
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If it's successful, we're going to get more daring shows on Broadway. If it's not, we're going to get more revivals." This is interesting, coming from a competitior whose own show, based on the popular Tom
Hanks movie about a 13-year-old boy who wakes up on day in the body of a 30-year-old man, could be said to represent the less daring sector of Broadway. "If I really wanted to make money I'd go to Wall Street and invent money," says Seller. "I came to Broadway because I was excited by the question 'Can you challenge the mainstream?
Can you reinvent the mainstream from inside the mainstream?'" Says McCollum: "It would be disingenuous to say we don't hope to make money with 'RENT.' But I'm here because I love the living theater." As Gordon puts it,
"We're trying to reinvent how you spend money on
Broadway. We have no limos. They don't want us at any glitzy restaurants." The weird thing is that when these hyped-up, fresh-faced guys say these things, you find yourself believing them. "RENT" completes a fortuitous trilogy begun by "Hair" in 1967 and continued by "A
Chorus Line" in 1975. These breakthrough musicals deal with "marginal" Americans - '60s flower children, the blue-collar gypsy dancers of Broadway, and now in
"RENT" the young people who follow a dream of art in a cold time for spirit and body. Larson, who was a denizen of New York's down under, evokes in swirling detail the downtown scene that is a paradoxical mix of wasteland and

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