Deux amis, Mark et Roger, partagent un appartement à New York. Mark, vidéaste, filme sans cesse son entourage, tandis que Roger, atteint du sida, rêve d'écrire une dernière chanson avant que la maladie de l'emporte. Sa rencontre avec Mimi, jeune toxicomane séropositive, changera sa vie. Se sachant condamnés, les deux amoureux connaîtront un amour aussi fiévreux qu'éphémère.Synopsis complet
1 Rent peut-être considéré comme un Top musical
2 Rent peut-être considéré comme un musical fondateur, c'est-à-dire ayant marqué l'histoire des musicals.
3 Rent est un musical abordant de manière centrale l'homosexualité.
Larson's inspiration for Rent's content came from several different sources. Many of the characters and plot elements are drawn directly from Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème, the world premiere of which was in 1896, a century before Rent's premiere. La bohème was also about the lives of poor young artists. Tuberculosis, the plague of Puccini's opera, is replaced by AIDS in Rent; 1800s Paris is replaced by New York's East Village in the late 1980s or early 1990s. The names and identities of Rent's characters also heavily reflect Puccini's original characters, though they are not all direct adaptations. For example, Joanne in Rent represents the character of Alcindoro in Bohème, but is also partially based on Marcello. Also, Joanne is the only Rent character whose predecessor in La bohème is the opposite gender.
La Bohème: Mimi, a seamstress with tuberculosis / Rent: Mimi Márquez, an S&M dancer with HIV
Rodolfo, a poet / Roger Davis, a songwriter-musician who is HIV positive
Marcello, a painter / Mark Cohen, an independent Jewish filmmaker and Roger's roommate
Musetta, a singer / Maureen Johnson, a lesbian performance artist
Schaunard, a musician / Angel Dumott Schunard, a gay drag queen percussionist with AIDS
Colline, a philosopher / Tom Collins, a gay philosophy professor (Not full-time) at New York University and anarchist with AIDS
Alcindoro, a state councilor / Joanne Jefferson, a lesbian lawyer, who is Maureen's girlfriend. (Also partially based on Marcello)
Benoit, a landlord / Benjamin 'Benny' Coffin III, the local landlord and a former roommate of Roger, Mark, Collins, and Maureen.
Other examples of parallels between Larson's and Puccini's work include Larson's song "Light My Candle", which is nearly identical to the first scene between Mimi and Rodolfo in La bohème, "Quando me n'vo (Musetta's Waltz)", a melody taken directly from Puccini's opera, and "Goodbye Love", a long, painful piece that reflects a confrontation and parting between characters in both Puccini's and Larson's work. "Quando me n' vo' " is paralleled in the first verse of "Take Me or Leave Me," when Maureen describes the way people stare when she walks in the street. It is also directly referred to in the scene where the characters are celebrating their bohemian life. Mark says, "Roger will attempt to write a bittersweet, evocative song…" Roger plays a quick piece, and Mark adds, "…that doesn't remind us of 'Musetta's Waltz'."
Rent is also a somewhat autobiographical work, as Larson incorporated many elements of his life into his show. Larson lived in New York for many years as a starving artist with an uncertain future. He sacrificed a life of stability for his art, and shared many of the same hopes and fears as his characters. Like his characters he endured poor living conditions, and some of these conditions (e.g. illegal wood-burning stove, bathtub in the middle of his kitchen, broken buzzer [his guests had to call from the pay phone across the street and he would throw down the keys, as in "Rent"]) made their way into the play. Part of the motivation behind the storyline in which Maureen leaves Mark for a woman (Joanne) is based on the fact that Larson's own girlfriend left him for a woman. The Mark Cohen character is based on Larson's friend, documentary filmmaker Eddie Rosenstein.
Playwright Sarah Schulman alleged that Rent bore striking similarities to her novel People in Trouble.
The line, "I'm more of a man than you'll ever be… and more of a woman than you'll ever get!", attributed to Angel Dumott Schunard at his funeral, was previously used by the character Hollywood Montrose, who appeared in the films Mannequin (1987) and Mannequin Two: On the Move (1991). Like Angel, Hollywood is a flamboyantly homosexual man who performs a song and dance number and sometimes wears women's clothing; however, the line was originally in the film Car Wash (1976), delivered by Antonio Fargas as a flamboyant homosexual cross dresser.
The earliest concepts of the characters differ largely from the finished products. Everyone except Mark had AIDS, including Maureen and Joanne; Maureen was a serious, angry character who played off Oedipus in her performance piece instead of Hey Diddle Diddle; Mark was, at one point, a painter instead of a filmmaker; Roger was named Ralph and wrote musical plays; Angel was a jazz philosopher, while Collins was a street performer; Angel and Collins were both originally described as Caucasian; and Benny had a somewhat enlarged role in the story, taking part in songs like "Real Estate", which was later cut.
Many actual locations and events are included in, or are the inspiration for, elements of the musical. The Life Café, where the "La Vie Boheme" numbers are set, is an actual restaurant in the East Village of New York City. The riot at the end of the first act is based on the East Village conflicts of the late 1980s that arose as a result of the city-imposed curfew in Tompkins Square Park.
"Will I?", a song which takes place during a Life Support meeting and expresses the pain and fear of living a life with AIDS, was inspired by a real event. Larson attended a meeting of Friends in Deed, an organization that helps people deal with illness and grief, much like Life Support. After that first time, Larson attended the meetings regularly. During one meeting, a man stood up and said that he was not afraid of dying. He did say, however, that there was one thing of which he was afraid: Would he lose his dignity? From this question stemmed the first line in the single stanza of this song. The people present at the Life Support meeting in the show, such as Gordon, Ali, and Pam carry the names of Larson's friends who died of AIDS. In the Broadway show, the names of the characters in that particular scene (they introduce themselves) are changed nightly to honor the friends of the cast members who are living with or have died from AIDS.
The scene and song "Life Support" was also based on Friends in Deed, as well as on Gordon, Pam, and Ali. Originally, the members of Life Support had a solid block of the "forget regret" refrain, and they talked about remembering love. When Jonathan's HIV positive friends heard this scene, they told him that having AIDS was not so easy to accept: it made you angry and resentful too, and the song did not match that. Jonathan then added a part where Gordon says that he has a problem with this "credo…my T-cells are low, I regret that news, okay?" Paul, the leader of the meeting, replies, "Okay…but, Gordon, how do you feel today?" Gordon admits that he is feeling the best that he has felt all year. Paul asks, "Then why choose fear?" Gordon says, "I'm a New Yorker. Fear's my life."
In 1988, playwright Billy Aronson wanted to create "a musical based on Puccini's La Bohème, in which the luscious splendor of Puccini's world would be replaced with the coarseness and noise of modern New York."
In 1989 Jonathan Larson, a 29-year-old composer, began collaborating with Aronson on this project, and the two composed a few songs together, including "Santa Fe", "Splatter" (later re-worked into the song "Rent"), and "I Should Tell You". Larson made the suggestion to set the play in the East Village, the artsy avant-garde neighborhood of Manhattan down the street from his Greenwich Village apartment, and also came up with the show's ultimate title (a decision that Aronson was unhappy with, at least until Larson pointed out that "rent" also means torn apart.). In 1991, he asked Aronson if he could use Aronson's original concept and make Rent his own. Larson had ambitious expectations for Rent; his ultimate dream was to write a rock opera "to bring musical theater to the MTV generation." Aronson and Larson made an agreement that if the show went to Broadway, Aronson would share in the proceeds.
Jonathan Larson focused on composing Rent in the early 1990s, waiting tables at the Moondance Diner to support himself. Over the course of seven years, Larson wrote hundreds of songs and made many drastic changes to the show, which in its final incarnation contained forty-two songs. In the fall of 1992, Larson approached James Nicola, artistic director of New York Theatre Workshop, with a tape and copy of Rent's script. When Rent had its first staged reading at New York Theatre Workshop in March 1993, it became evident that, despite its very promising material and moving musical numbers, many structural problems needed to be addressed including its cumbersome length and overly complex plot.
As of 1994, the New York Theatre Workshop version of Rent featured songs that never made it to the final version, such as "You're A Fool", "Voice Mail #4","Come To The Meeting","Open Road", "He Says","On The Street #1-3", "You'll Get Over It", the predecessor of "Tango: Maureen," featuring Mark and Maureen; "Right Brain", the predecessor to "One Song Glory," featuring Roger; "Do A Little Business", the predecessor of "You'll See," featuring Benny, Mark, Roger, Collins, and Angel; "Female to Female A & B," featuring Maureen and Joanne; and "Real Estate", a number wherein Benny tries to convince Mark to become a real estate agent and drop his filmmaking. This workshop version of Rent starred Anthony Rapp as Mark and Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi. Larson continued to work on Rent, gradually reworking its flaws and staging more workshop productions.
On January 24, 1996, after the musical's final dress rehearsal before its off-Broadway opening, Larson enjoyed his first (and only) newspaper interview with music critic Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times, attracted by the coincidence that the show was debuting exactly 100 years after Puccini's opera. Larson would not live to see Rent's success; he died from an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm (believed to have resulted from Marfan syndrome) in the early morning of January 25, 1996. The first preview of Rent was canceled and instead, friends and family gathered at the theater where the actors performed a sing-through of Rent in Larson's memory. The show premiered as planned and quickly gained popularity fueled by enthusiastic reviews and the recent death of its composer. It proved extremely successful during its off-Broadway run, selling out all its shows at the 150-seat New York Theatre Workshop.
Due to such overwhelming popularity and a need for a larger theater, Rent moved to Broadway's previously derelict Nederlander Theatre on 41st Street on April 29, 1996.
"Tune Up #1" — Mark and Roger
"Voice Mail #1" — Mark's Mother
"Tune Up #2" — Mark, Roger, Collins and Benny
"Rent" — Mark, Roger, Benny, Collins, Joanne and Company
"You Okay Honey?" — Preachers, Angel and Collins
"Tune Up #3" — Mark and Roger
"One Song Glory" — Roger
"Light My Candle" — Mimi and Roger
"Voice Mail #2" — Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson
"Today 4 U" — Collins, Roger, Mark and Angel
"You'll See" — Benny, Mark, Roger, Collins and Angel
"Tango: Maureen" — Joanne and Mark
"Life Support" — Gordon, Paul, Mark and Company
"Out Tonight" — Mimi
"Another Day" — Mimi, Roger and Company
"Will I?" — Steve and Company
"On the Street" — Preachers, Squeegee Man, Mark, Collins, Angel and homeless woman.
"Santa Fe" — Collins, Angel, Mark and Company
"I'll Cover You" — Angel and Collins
"We're Okay" — Joanne
"Christmas Bells" — Company
"Over the Moon" — Maureen
"Over the Moon Playoff" — The Band
"La Vie Bohème A" — Mark, the waiter, Roger, Benny, Mimi, Collins, Angel, Maureen, Joanne, Mr. Grey and Company
"I Should Tell You" — Mimi and Roger
"La Vie Bohème B" — Maureen, Joanne, Boheme girl, Mark, Angel and Company
"Seasons of Love" — Company
"Happy New Year A" — Mark, Roger, Mimi, Collins, Angel, Maureen, and Joanne
"Voice Mail #3" — Mark's Mother and Alexi Darling
"Happy New Year B" — Mark, Roger, Mimi, Collins, Angel, Maureen, Joanne, and Benny
"Take Me or Leave Me" — Maureen and Joanne
"Seasons of Love B" — Company
"Without You" — Roger and Mimi
"Voice Mail #4" — Alexi Darling
"Contact" — Angel and Company
"I'll Cover You" (Reprise) — Collins and Company
"Halloween" — Mark
"Goodbye Love" — Mark, Roger, Mimi, Collins, Maureen, Joanne, and Benny
"What You Own" — Roger and Mark
"Voice Mail #5" — Roger's Mother, Mimi's Mother, Mr. Jefferson, and Mark's Mother
"Finale A" — Preachers, Mark, Roger, Collins, Maureen, Joanne, and Mimi
"Your Eyes" — Roger
"Finale B" — Company
"Playout (I'll Cover You)" — The Band
Mark Cohen : A struggling Jewish documentary filmmaker and the narrator of the show. He is Roger's and Collins's roommate until Collins moves out; he is also Maureen's ex-boyfriend.
Roger Davis : A once successful but now struggling musician who is HIV positive and an ex-junkie. He hopes to write one last meaningful song before he dies. He is having a hard time coping with the fact that he, along with many others around him, knows that he is going to die. His girlfriend, April, killed herself after finding out that she was HIV positive. He is roommates with Mark.
Mimi Márquez: A club dancer and drug addict. She lives downstairs from Mark and Roger, and is Roger's love interest who, like him, has HIV. She is also Benny's ex-lover.
Tom Collins : A gay anarchist with AIDS. He is described by Mark as a "computer genius, teacher, and vagabond anarchist who ran naked through the Parthenon." Collins dreams of opening a restaurant in Santa Fe, where the problems in New York will not affect him and his friends. He was formerly a roommate of Roger, Mark, Benny, and Maureen, then just Roger and Mark, until he moves in with Angel.
Angel Dumott Schunard : A young Drag Queen, street percussionist with AIDS. He is Collins's love interest.
Maureen Johnson : A lesbian  performance artist who is Mark's ex-girlfriend and Joanne's current girlfriend. She is very flirtatious and cheated on Mark a lot.
Joanne Jefferson : An Ivy League-educated public interest lawyer and a lesbian. Joanne is the woman for whom Maureen left Mark. Joanne has very important parents (one is undergoing confirmation to be a judge, the other is a government official.)
Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III : Landlord of Mark, Roger and Mimi's apartment building and ex-roommate of Mark, Collins, Roger, and Maureen. Now married to Alison Grey of the Westport Greys, a very wealthy family involved in real estate, and he is considered a yuppie scum and a sell-out by his ex-roommates. He is also Mimi's ex-lover, although he considers himself her ex-boyfriend.
 Minor characters
Mrs. Cohen: Mark's stereotypical Jewish mother. Her voicemail messages are the basis for the songs Voicemail #1, Voicemail #3, and Voicemail #5.
Alexi Darling: The producer of Buzzline who tries to employ Mark after his footage of the riot makes primetime. Sings Voicemail #3 and Voicemail #4.
Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson: The wealthy parents of Joanne Jefferson, they leave her Voicemail #2. Mr. Jefferson is also one of the a cappella singers in Voicemail #5. Mrs. Jefferson usually sings the female solo in Seasons of Love.
Mrs. Davis: Roger's confused mother who calls in Voicemail #5, asking continuously, "Roger, where are you?"
Mrs. Marquez: Mimi's Spanish-speaking mother who sings in Voicemail #5, wondering, in Spanish, where she is.
Mr. Grey: Benny's father-in-law who wants to buy out the lot.
The Man: The local drug dealer whom Mimi buys from and Roger used to buy from.
Paul: The man in charge of the Life Support group.
Gordon: One of the Life Support members. Usually doubles as "The Man"
Steve: One of the Life Support members. Usually doubles as "The Waiter"
Ali: One of the Life Support members
Pam: One of the Life Support members
Sue: One of the Life Support members. As notated in the script by Larson, the roles of all of the Life Support members are encouraged to take on the name that someone in the cast (or production) knows or has known to have succumbed to AIDS. In the final Broadway performance, Sue is renamed Lisa.
Squeegee Man: A homeless person who chants "Honest living!" over and over.
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1) À sa sortie, Rent était une des rares comédies musicales de Broadway à comprendre des personnages principaux ouvertement gays et lesbiens sur scène. Bien qu'un stéréotype courant soit la grande proportion de personnages gays dans le milieu du théâtre, presque toute production antérieure en rapport avec ce sujet a généralement été reléguée aux théâtres off-Broadway (l'exception la plus connue étant La Cage aux folles).
2) During the NYTW, a dramaturg named Lynn Thomson was brought on board and she did approximately 6 months of work on the show. Later, claiming she had written large portions of the revised libretto and lyrics, she sued Larson's estate for $40 million USD and 16% of the royalties earned off of the show.
However, during the course of the trial, she was unable to remember any lyrics or dialogue that she had written and both the original judge and the federal appellate judge ruled in favor of the family. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, however, she does retain a credit (that is included alongside Billy Aronson's additional lyric credit) as dramaturg in all official materials.
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