The authorized libretto for Jonathan Larson’s epochal rock musical, Rent, has finally reached print, and not a moment too soon. The celebrated Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning show is due to end its historic Broadway run later this year, making the time ripe for a little retrospection. And the introductory essay in this new edition, written by Larson’s longtime friend Victoria Leacock Hoffman, capitalizes on the potential for nostalgia. Having collaborated with Larson for over a decade and produced his musical, tick, tick…BOOM!, Hoffman’s firsthand look at the creation of Rent is priceless. She chronicles Larson’s journey from struggling New York actor (yes, he originally came here to be an actor) to rising composer on the verge with loving detail, painting a vivid picture of the AIDS-ravaged downtown Manhattan of the 1980s that influenced Larson at every turn. It’s a simultaneously harrowing and inspirational story of death, love, and a classic work of art being born.
In addition, there’s also the libretto itself – a modern updating of Puccini’s seminal opera, La Boheme – which is a prime example of musical theater bookwriting and sharp, moving lyrics. Fifteen color stills from the original production (featuring a cast of then-upstarts including Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs, Adam Pascal, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Anthony Rapp) rounds out this handsome and well-considered edition. For fans of both the show and musical theater, there’s no day like today to grab a copy of Rent for one’s bookshelf.