January 17, 2008
Rent to Close on Broadway This June
After 12 years on Broadway, the revolutionary musical Rent will close on June 1, The New York Times reports (nytimes.com, 1/16).
The show, the seventh-longest-running play in Broadway history, was one of the first musicals to portray AIDS as a social crisis—along with poverty and drug addiction—affecting a wide variety of men and women: black, white and Latino, gay and straight. A contemporary take on Giacomo Puccini’s 1897 opera La Boheme (whose plotline involves what would appear to be tuberculosis), Rent opened in April 1996. Its arrival coincided with that of lifesaving protease inhibitor HIV meds —though the show’s principal characters are shown taking AZT. Rent won four Tony Awards—including Best Musical—and the Pulitzer Prize, and has been adapted into a feature film.
According to the article, Rent’s recent box office draw has not met its production costs, citing competition from newer Broadway hits such as Spring Awakening and Legally Blonde, which target a similar youthful audience. Despite its legions of Rentheads—the show’s cult following of young fans—and its total gross of $280 million on Broadway and $339 million from touring, it has not been attracting large enough audiences to continue running.
“Something happened in the fall. We were consistently selling less tickets than we were last year and three or four years ago,” Jeffrey Seller, one of the show’s producers, told the Times. Although HIV and AIDS are now widely portrayed as being more “manageable” and less controversial than they were since Rent’s opening, no other commercial Broadway show has since attempted to address the virus in such a vital, contemporary mainstream manner.
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