Rent Celebrates 20 Years at Wharton

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One of the most revered Broadway musicals of all time is making its grand return to the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts. This March, Rent is coming to East Lansing for a stop on its highly-acclaimed 20th anniversary tour. The characters, songs and stories that inspired countless audiences in the ’90s have been revived for a new generation of theatergoers.

This will be the third time that Rent has played at the Wharton Center, and Public Relations Director Bob Hoffman could not be more delighted. “It was just such an amazing show when I first saw it years ago in New York,” he said. “It’s a timeless story. We’re introducing people to something that really changed Broadway. It’s just one of these shows that really touches people’s hearts.”

Rent came into fruition as the dream project of a young playwright named Jonathan Larson, who wrote the entirety of the script and the music. Unfortunately, he would never see his show come to life — he died suddenly on the morning of its Off-Broadway debut. Rent lived on, forever transforming the theatrical landscape with its gritty storytelling and hard-hitting, lively music.

The show, a modern-day revamp of the Giacomo Puccini opera La Bohème, follows a diverse community of bohemians searching for love and self-fulfillment in New York City’s East Village. They thrive with an irrepressible spirit, even as the threats of HIV/AIDS, drugs and poverty loom over their everyday lives.

“It’s a story of young artists struggling to live and celebrate life, and I think that’s so much a part of today’s fabric as it was in the 1990s,” Hoffman said.

Rent was a resounding commercial and critical success. The show’s initial run lasted for 12 years, making it the eleventh longest-running show in Broadway history. Rent also won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and is one of only nine musicals in history to earn the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The influence and cultural impact of the show continue to this day. The musical centerpiece, “Seasons of Love,” has become a universal Broadway standard. Actors from the original cast, such as Idina Menzel, have gone on to pursue flourishing careers both on and off the stage. Several Broadway composers, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, have cited Rent as a vital influence on their own work.

For Hoffman, Rent remains a pivotal musical. “It’s a story which addresses adult themes and controversial issues, but they’re issues that happen even today,” Hoffman said. “Art is supposed to make you think, to make you curious, to make you want to learn more. So I’m pretty excited about Rent coming back.”

Don’t miss out on what is sure to be an incredible revival of a legendary musical. The Rent 20th Anniversary Tour is playing at the Wharton Center from March 17, through March 19, 2017. You can purchase your tickets by visiting whartoncenter.com or by calling 1-800-WHARTON. Student discounts are also available. The show is only here for five performances, so make sure to grab your tickets soon!

 

Nitish Pahwa is a senior majoring in professional writing with a concentration in editing and publishing. He is passionate about the arts and has written about music and culture for various websites and publications. He owns way too many books and CDs, but somehow it’s never enough. Follow him on Twitter @pahwa_nitish.