Along the way, it won the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize. It launched the career's of Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel.
I discovered RENT in the fall of 1996. I didn't actually see it for the first time until the next spring, but by then I had memorized every single word of the score. In the years since, I have seen it on stage 7 times. I wish it was 107. For those of you who's only frame of reference to the show is the film. . . . I'm sorry for you.
This show has such an emotional power. It just can't really be described. But I'll try.
In about 1999 or so, I saw it in Austin. It was part of the Broadway Across America series. I had really good seats, orchestra, pretty close to front center. I was sitting directly behind two well dressed, older (than me) couple's. I would guess mid 50's or so. It was apparent from their conversation that the two men hadn't seen each other since the last show in the series. As the wives happily chatted about this and that, one of the men asked the other (in a good old boy drawl), "What's this one about"? His friend answered, "Hell I heard it's about queers and AIDS and blacks and whites kissing each other". Good Old Boy replied, "If it is, I'm walking out of here".
I thought to myself, "Well, this should be interesting".
As the show commenced and I sat there mouthing the words, rapt in my own bliss, a funny thing happened. The two in front of me became very obviously engrossed in the show. When Angel died, I noticed Good Old Boy make a little swipe at his eyes, real quick like, as if he just "had something in it". When the show was over, there he was, on his feet standing and applauding as long and as loud as everyone else.
Bless you Jonathan Larson, and goodbye old friend.
La Vie Boheme!