There’s a fascinating article in the Times right now about the closing of RENT. The writer, Campbell Robinson, talks about how he came late to RENT and late to the city, too, since the musical is set in a very narrow, very specific time and place.
Image details: Cast Members From "Rent" Perform At Broadway For Life served by picapp.com
The question becomes, then, why does it have such appeal outside New York? If it’s too unrealistic to people who live there now, what is it that makes it appeal so much to people like my daughters (who in fact introduced me to the songs and story, and who have seen it on Broadway)?
I suppose part of it, at least, is that it’s not an original story – the theme was borrowed directly from La Boheme, and that’s not to impugn the immense talent of Jonathan Larson at all. As Robinson notes in his article, RENT captures the flavor and spirit of New York in a way that makes it, now that the wheel of time has moved on, almost a historical narrative, as accurate as any text by Herodotus. As a cultural memento of the way a microcosm of culture reacted to crisis…it is a monument as well as a work of art.
So I bid it farewell as it leaves Broadway, knowing that while I’ll never see it there, my children have, and so we, too, are a part of that cultural icon.