5 things you may not know about Jonathan Larson’s smash-hit rock musical RENT! 💫
5 things you may not know about Jonathan Larson’s smash-hit rock musical RENT! 💫

5 things you may not know about Jonathan Larson’s smash-hit rock musical RENT! 💫

Ahead of RENT opening here in Peterborough on the 20th June we are here to tell you more about the show. Here’s five things you may not have known:


1. RENT is loosely based on Puccini’s opera La Bohème.

Both productions follow a group of artists struggling with poverty and disease, whilst still finding love, friendship and happiness. Jonathan Larson saw himself and his friends in this opera, and used the storyline of La Bohème mixed with his own experiences to create the smash-hit musical we know today. Characters such as Rodolfo were changed Roger, Musetta to Maureen and Marcello to Mark.

2. Producers saw a workshop performance, and offered to fund it before they’d even seen Act II.

RENT was first seen as a staged reading in March 1993 at the New York Theatre Workshop. After a lot of revisions to the script it was then staged in a new workshop performance. Producing partners Jeffrey Seller and Kevin McCollum saw this version, and after ‘Light My Candle’, Seller said “That’s the best piece of musical-theater storytelling I’ve seen in a long time,”. By the interval, before even seeing Act Two, they told Larson they wanted to do the show. A third producer, their associate, Allen Gordon was introduced – and the show opened on Broadway in 1996.

3. Jonathan Larson, writer, composer and lyricist, did not live to see the shows success.

Sadly, Larson passed away unexpectedly from a fatal aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, the night before the Off-Broadway premiere at just 35 years old. The cast decided to take to the stage and the first preview of RENT was planned to be a sing-through to Larson’s friends and family.

In the documentary, No Day But Today – The Story of Rent, Wilson Jermaine Heredia (who played Angel) said “By the time we got to ‘La Vie Boheme,’ we could not contain ourselves,”. For the rest of the performance, the whole company performed the show as it was meant to be.

Larson’s family and friends started the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation to provide monetary grants to artists to support their creative work.

4. RENT is the 11th longest running show on Broadway.

After playing to sold-out crowds, and continuously extending off-Broadway, in April 1996 the show made its move to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre. It played for 12 years, and 5,123 performances, grossing over $280 million. At that time it was the 7th longest running show on Broadway, and is now the 11th after Beauty & the Beast and Mamma Mia!

5. It founded some innovative pricing schemes still seen today.

Jeffrey Seller and Kevin McCollum also felt passionate about making tickets to the show accessible, to those “in their 20s and 30s, artists, Bohemians—the people for whom [Larson] wrote the show.” They therefore sold two rows of premium seats at every show for $20. This began two hours before the show on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Hardcore fans (bonus fact: these are known as ‘Rentheads’) began camping outside the theatre to be first in-line for these tickets, which caused the producers to have concerns about fan safety. They therefore took the decision to replace this with ticket lotteries – with this being the first time Broadway had seen this.

To this day many Broadway (and West End) shows offer ticket lottery’s, which thanks to the producers of RENT, gives people access to tickets that they may not otherwise have been able to afford.


It’s a true honour for Landmark Theatres to be producing this smash-hit rock musical, and we hope we are doing Jonathan Larson proud.

If you’d like to catch this iconic musical right here in the UK be sure to book your tickets here.