Thursday, October 18, 2018

#TBT: Playbill: RENT: May 1996

Sometimes when you see a brand new show you can tell it is going to be a success. Other times - rarely - you can just tell a brand new show will be a game-changing phenomenon. When I saw RENT the first time, it was only a few performances old. It wasn't sold out; there was no stand-by line; there was no lottery line. But I still knew that what I was seeing was going to change musical theater as we knew it.

How could I possibly know that? Well, it was so...different...the sound...the subject matter...the passion of the cast...the staging. All of it felt risky and not a sure thing at all. But i just knew. I think it had something to do with forgetting to blink. Or breathe. It was positively electric. And that cast full of unknowns. I remember distinctly being most impressed the Sarah Jessica Parker's brother was in it.

Of course, hindsight is 20-20. So many cast members became superstars. Musicals moved away from those 80's mega-musicals. Social consciousness as musical subject matter was back in style. Gay content moved beyond drag queens "putting on a show." The low-cost lottery system was born. And the show and score and its creator have become legend.

I am so grateful to have had this amazing experience.

(Click the images below to enlarge.)

May 1996
Nederlander Theatre
16 previews, 5,123 performances
May 1996 Cast: Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Idina Menzel, Fredi Walker, Jesse L. Martin, Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Gwen Stewart
Book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson. Directed by Michael Greif

The original cast title page
(And nothing says "RENT" like an ad for Bermuda, right?)

Wow! They sure look young...

The Song List

Talk about a good time to see shows on Broadway... 3 Andrew Lloyd Webber shows (Cats isn't listed, but it was still playing.), Les Miz and Miss Saigon? And with tickets starting at $15!? Plus a chance to see two Rodgers and Hammerstein shows and Show Boat!? And a Sondheim show!? Plays by Albee, McNally and Wilson... 3 (soon to be 4) Pulitzer Prize winners, and one finalist... Let's not forget the star power, too... Nathan Lane, Elaine Stritch, George C. Scott, Charles Durning, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zoe Caldwell, Carol Burnett, Philip Bosco, Betty Buckley, Julie Andrews, Tony Roberts, Michael Nouri and Rachel York. Good times!


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