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Tuesday, August 16, 2005


While watching the trailer for Rent, I was reminded of Jonathan Larson, his music, his dreams and how bittersweet making this film must have been for his family. I became a fan of the show when it first debuted on Broadway. I was intrigued by Larson's musical style, the story -- based on Puccini's La Boheme and because of Jonathan Larson himself. The tragic story of Larson's untimely death (just prior to the show's first dress rehearsal off-Broadway) was as big (if not bigger) a story as the show itself which went on to receive virtually every Broadway/Theatre award in 1996 including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

It has been said that Jonathan Larson single handedly revolutionized the Broadway musical genre. Whether that is true or not, what he did do was change the lives of millions of people who have been fortunate enough to witness his work. On Broadway, Rent has been playing for 9+ years to sold-out audiences with repeat audience members as well as new generation theatre-goers. The story of Rent is real, raw and to so many people relatable. It is a human-interest story that deals with our dreams, our fears, mortality, failure, success, sexuality, family and friendship.

If Jonathan Larson wanted to affect people who saw his show, he did that better than he could have ever imagined. To say that his music and words are profound might be a little dramatic and maybe even a stretch to some. But through his work, he has in some ways, given a voice to those who don't have one and brought attention to the plight of those who are living with HIV/AIDS. He has made a difference...he is one person who has made a difference that started with a dream.

I wonder what he would think right now. Did he have any idea that his show would generate such publicity that it would land on the cover of Time Magazine? Did he dream of winning a Tony Award? Did he ever imagine, in his wildest dreams that his musical would be a major motion picture? I was reading the Rent coffee table book again recently to be reminded of Jonathan Larson's dreams, his determination to make it and how devistating his death was to his family and the cast of the show. Even though I know how he died as well as when and where he read it again is just so sad. I connect to his story because of my passion for musical theatre. I remeber what it was like to want to do something to make a difference in that world...and it reminds me that I'm not doing that at all.

When I think of Jonathan Larson, I am inspired every single time. I can only imagine the kind of impact he could have made but grateful because of what he has done. One song in particular has never failed to affect me because of it's meaning. Whether I am happy, sad, in need of inspiration or confirmation, his song Love Heals never fails. It's a beautiful song and can be found on Sherie Rene Scott's album, Men I've Had.

I connect to Jonathan Larson's lyrics and notice that somehow, they always come down to the subject of love. No matter what the song is about, whether it is from Rent or Tick, Tick...Boom! the one thing (and it really is) I always hear in each note and word is love. I hear a love of the art form, a love that never was or almost is...romantic love, fraternal love, familial love...I hear love as the underlying subject in his work. I don't know if that was ever his intention or if that is just me.

The irony in his work and in turn, the legacy and message he leaves behind are many when you really listen to the lyrics in Rent. Things like "there is no future, there is no past, I live this moment as my last," "Forget regret or life is yours to miss" and "today for you, tomorrow for me." All very true and again, very ironic.

Support Jonathan Larson and go see Rent on Broadway (or on tour) and make sure to catch most of the original cast in the film version of Rent this fall. As a quick side note (you've read this much, what's another sentence)...I am so thrilled that essentially the entire original Broadway cast of Rent were able to reprise their roles in the film. I couldn't imagine anyone else in these roles. Imagine if Justin Timberlake were Mark...or Roger...ugh. Sorry Justin, it just wouldn't have been right. But when I saw the cast performing on the Today show, I felt a huge sense of pride seeing them together. Is that silly? They've come so far. I wonder what Jonathan would have said?

In the words of Jonathan Larson: "No Day But Today."


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