RENT Revival; Rightful Return or Ridiculous Repeat?

Heated from the title of this article alone? I figured I would be offending at least half of you by the title of this article alone. So whether you’re heated or not, here we go with a new hot controversial blog post by Luner on Theatre as we take on one of most legendary productions in Broadway history. After a historic 12 year run on Broadway, RENT returns this summer to Off-Broadway’s New World Stages. However, is this production of RENT a Rightful Return or Ridiculous Repeat?

RENT began Off-Broadway in 1993 when it had its first reading at the New York Theatre Workshop. It was workshopped again in 1994 multiple times at the New York Theatre Workshop and finally opened there on January 25th, 1996. The production was hailed as a “landmark rock opera” and was also considered “hope for the future of the American musical”. It continued to sell out the 150 seat theatre it had at the New York Theatre Workshop so it moved uptown to Broadway as it became very clear to producers, something was different about this show.

RENT moved to The Nederlander Theatre on 41st street and opened there on April 26th, 1996. The original cast included Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia,Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Fredi Walker. The production scored in every single aspect. Hitting the right note with the critics and scoring the word of mouth popularity from the New York crowd, RENT was up and running. The production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 1996 and scored 4 of them including Best Musical. However, did anyone in 1996 realize the revolution that was about take place?

The musical scored big with the generation. One critic said RENT spoke to Generation X as Hair did to the baby boomers. People known as RENT-Heads who were die hard fans of the show were all around and all about the production. RENT ran for 12 years on Broadway to become the 9th longest running show in Broadway history. The production closed on September 7th, 2008 after performing 5,124 performances and grossing over $280 million dollars.


Less then 3 years after one of the most legendary productions in Broadway history closed, RENT will return to Off-Broadway. Producers Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum and Allan S. Gordon announced earlier this year that the ground breaking production would return to Off-Broadway this summer. But is this all really appropriate? In a world filled obsessions and doing things that work well, is RENT’s return rightful in the sense that it belongs in the New York theatre scene or ridiculous in the sense that the same production that conquered Broadway for 12 years will simply return? So, lets take both sides of the arguement.

RENT, for the millionth time, is a ground breaking production. It changed the New York theatre scene forever and brought to life ideas people had never before decide to challenge in musical theatre. The production has an overwhelming amount of fans and followers that are beyond excited to hear this news of its return. however, there are also plenty of RENT-heads that are looking at this newly aimed revival and asking “Why?”. However, some do feel as though RENT should have never closed in the first place and belongs a permanent place on Broadway like such other legendary productions such as Les Miserables or The Phantom of the Opera.

The production will feature a creative team including Michael Greif directing the piece, Larry Keigwin choreographing, Tim Weil as music supervisor, Mark Wendland set designing, Angela Wendt costume designing, Kevin Adams designing lights, Brian Ronan sound desiging and Telsey + Company in charge of casting. Hint: Do you see an issue in the creative team?

Michael Greif, who is set to direct the production, was also the original director of RENT off and on Broadway back in early 90’s. The question worth asking now is, Will Greif simply repeat his work form the original production due to unbelievable success?  No one can truly say. However, once the production launches people will be able to tell what Greif has done to the production since its last stint on Broadway.

Some are saying however that the major difference of this production will deal with what occurred back in 1996. Jonathan Larson passed away the day before opening night of RENT Off-Broadway. Many of the choices and future decisions made about RENT were picked how people believed he would have wanted things. Some are saying now that this production will be different considering that will not have to take into effect his death as much considering it is now a decade after it has occurred. However, is that technically right? While it the directors call on how the show is envisioned and executed artistically, shouldn’t one stay true to the playwright? This question will come into effect once critics see if any lines, songs or music has been changed which one might assume could happen.

I also feel like this will become a much more heated topic if the production is to move back to Broadway. The production is currently set for an open run at New World Stages so the chance of RENT returning to Broadway is a possibility. In a world filled with Broadway shows consistently opening and closing, there are quite a number of free theatre’s and I’m sure that number will only goes up as the awards season comes to a close. Luner on Theatre would like to clarify we do not hope that theatre’s will become empty as time goes on, just simply a saying.

However, the real question is, WHAT DO YOU THINK!? Is RENT a rightful return or a ridiculos repeat? We are beyond interested to see what you think about the return to Off-Broadway one of the most influential American musicals of all time! And do you think RENT will return to Broadway? And if so, is that right or wrong? What do you think about this RENT chaos?! Tell us!

Luner on Theatre will keep you up to date on all the latest RENT news and gossip about this controversial return to Off-Broadway. Don’t forget to tell Luner on Theatre what you think! We’d love to hear all sides of this question we have proposed. RENT is set to return to Off-Broadway at New World Stages beginning July 14th, 2011 with an official opening set for August 11th, 2011. For more information, visit the New World Stages Official Website.

Larson at RENT - New York Theatre Workshop


  • Valerie Caniglia

    It’s too early for this revival. It should have come back ten years later as opposed to three years. If they really and truly wanted to reintroduce this show to a young generation, the producers need to give it time; the show still has a really strong impact on people (some are still angry that it closed). Plus it just played the Hollywood Bowl. Let Rent rest for a bit, and then bring it back so it can have just as strong an impact as it did in ’96.

  • Paige Strothmann

    Three years is way too soon for this revival. It’s almost as if they just regret closing it in the first place and are trying to sneak it back in as if the ’08 closing never happened. I’m glad to see it returning as I think it has a lot to say and is an incredibly strong piece but the closing did happen in 2008 and so I think taking that into consideration it’s just sort of ridiculous to bring it back after only 3 years.

  • Jacquie Jablanski

    I agree with Val, it’s too soon! And as much as I know and love the original production, I think it is silly to just restage it now. I hope that some new things are brought to the show without changing Larson’s vision. It is in good hands with Greif, as he knew Jonathan and has had over a decade of time and experience since he directed it the first time. As a huge fan of the show and a show that means a great deal to me, I am very interested to see the production!

  • I agree. It’s way to early. Not to mention that this generation takes the issue of HIV/AIDS as much less serious since it can be treated. So the impact of this show with a snookie paris/ the hills reality famous for the fact that ure famous generation is rather questionable.

  • As a RENT head I am not sorry to see the show return, but I also think it is too soon. At this point if they change the show too much it is still too fresh in the fans minds and they won’t embrace it. If they would have waited longer people would be more open to the show being reinvented. As much as I would love to see RENT everytime I am in the city. Maybe they should not have closed it in the first place!

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