‘Rent’ is a story of hope, family, love, and resiliency that still resonates today after 25 years

By Beth Mack 

November 8, 2021

Photo: Carol Rosegg

The critically acclaimed four-time Tony Award-winning musical production Rent is more than just a musical. Its message and fanfare have led to it becoming one of the longest running productions on Broadway, with several national tours, numerous foreign productions, and a film adaptation in 2005. The impact of Rent has transcended time and borders. 

“I think Rent has such a huge following because of how inclusive it is. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in a lot of musicals. Whether it’s a song, a character, or circumstance in the play, I believe everyone will be able to relate to it in some way,” said Rayla Garske who plays Joanne Jefferson in the Rent 25th anniversary farewell tour.

The cast of the ‘Rent’ 25th anniversary farewell tour. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Inspired by Giacomo Pucccini’s 1896 opera, La Boheme, and incorporating elements from his personal life as a struggling artist, Jonathan Larson wrote Rent to tell the story of a diverse group of struggling young artists in New York City’s Lower East Side amidst the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The rock musical made its debut in March of 1993 with a staged reading at New York Theater Workshop, before eventually debuting as an off-Broadway production in January of 1996. Sadly, the night before Rent’s off-Broadway debut, Larson suddenly passed away and would never see the success and lasting impact of his creation. Rent quickly grew in popularity and acclaim, making the jump to Broadway’s Nederlander Theater in April of 1996. In its 12-year run on Broadway, it grossed over $280 million, and it’s been performed in over 50 countries and 25 languages. 

The cast of the ‘Rent’ 25th anniversary farewell tour. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Rent’s impact goes beyond that of just a musical. It is a cultural movement garnering its own fan club of “Rentheads,” who stand in line for hours for tickets and have watched the show numerous times to just relive its message. In a push for inclusivity and affordable access to the arts and Broadway, Rent pioneered the rush ticket, a limited number of $20 same-day performance front row seats, which many Broadway productions still offer to this day.

Rent was ahead of its time in including a diverse cast of characters who differ in race, religion, and sexuality while addressing topics such as homosexuality, addiction, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS, all of which are still social issues we face today. Its story of hope, family, love, and resiliency still resonates today just as much as it did 25 years ago, especially in the current landscape of the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing social movements. Ultimately, Rent’s message digs down to a group of friends fighting for survival in uncertain times and, above all, searching for love.  

L to R: Rayla Garske as Joanne Jefferson, Lyndie Moe as Maureen Johnson, Shafiq Hicks as Tom Collins, and Javon King as Angel Dumott Schunard. Photo: Carol Rosegg

“Rent is super relevant today because recently we have all gone through a huge challenge with Covid. We can relate to living in a time of uncertainty, standing up against social injustice, remembering to love and cherish the moments we have,” said Garske. 

The nationwide year-long, Rent: 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour, has retained some creatives from the original Broadway production, including director Michael Grief. In homage to its roots, the Blumenthal will even have a limited number of $20 rush tickets available two hours before the show. 

The Rent 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour will be in Charlotte on November 9-14 at Belk Theater. 


Tuesday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, November 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, November 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, November 12 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 13 at 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 13 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 14 at 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 14 at 7:00 p.m.

This article is brought to you ad-free by Blumenthal Performing Arts 

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