Rent Premieres At Arts Centre Melbourne -

Noah Mullins and Jerrod Smith in RENT PHOTO @piajohnsonphotography

Rent Premieres At Arts Centre Melbourne

by Paul Cashmere on February 22, 2024

in News

Rent revolutionised musical theatre when it first premiered in New York in 1996. It modernised Broadway and opened a door for productions such as ‘Hamilton’ to come through later.

Unlike the traditional theatre shows of the time, Rent spoke to the people of the day. It was about real people with real fears and concerns. Rent articulated New York like West Side Story had done 40 years before it.

Rent was created by composer and lyricist Jonathan Larson who died the day before Rent opened in New York. His other work was ‘Tick, Tick … Boom’.

The story is about Mark (Noah Mullins), a young filmmaker and his friend Roger (Jerrod Smith), a musician who is HIV-positive. They live in a slum area of New York’s Lower East Side in a building with no heat. They are behind in their rent when former friend and now landlord Benny (Tana Laga’aia) who offers a rent free year if they can convince protester Maureen (Calista Nelmes) to give up her protest against the eviction of the homeless from a vacant block he plans to build on.

There is a lot going on with the story. Collins (Nick Afoa) is mugged outside the building at the start of the show, adding danger and violence to the storyline.

‘Rent’ is a snap-shot in the year (525,600 minutes) in the life of Mark, Noah and Benny and those they come into contact with. The show is about struggle and survival and when faced with homelessness and sickness how different people react to the same situations.

When Rent premiered on Broadway it was the hottest ticket in town. Because it spoke to a younger audience and addressed their problems it attracted a new audience to theatre. Nearly 30 years on and now with the modern productions like Hamilton, it is clouded trying to understand Rent’s initial impact to an audience seeing it for the first time.

The centrepiece song from the show is ‘Seasons of Love’, oddly appearing at the start of Act 2. Had Jonathan Larson lived, I wonder if he would have showcased the theme music earlier in the show, as in standard in Andrew Lloyd Webber productions.

Season of Love from the Broadway production in 2008

‘Rent’ is a rock show and that was obvious from the audience applause during many of the numbers. ‘Rent’ is not a show traditional theatre lovers may like. It is confronting. It is certainly not “feel good” but it is definitely powerful.

Venue State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Season 17 February – 10 March
Performance Times Tues-Thurs 7pm, Fri-Sat 7.30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 1pm and 6pm, Wed 2pm (6 March only)
Prices: From $59.90 (Transaction fees apply)
Bookings: or call 1300 182 183
Groups 10+ call 1300 182 183

Venue Civic Theatre
Season 15 – 17 March
Performance Times Fri-Sat 7.30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 1pm and 6pm
Prices From $54 (Transaction fees apply)
Bookings or (02) 4929 1977

Venue His Majesty’s Theatre
Season11 – 19 May
Performance Times Tues-Thurs 7pm, Fri-Sat 7.30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 1pm and 6pm
Prices From $59 (Transaction fees apply)
Bookings or (08) 6212 9292

Venue Canberra Theatre
Season 7 – 13 June
Performance Times Tues-Thurs 7pm, Fri-Sat 7.30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 2pm
Prices From $59.90 (Transaction fees apply)
Bookings or (02) 6275 2700

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