One of the most popular musicals of all time is celebrating its 20th birthday.
It was actually in 1996, 21 years ago, that “Rent” first hit Broadway. But the current non-Equity tour started last year, so it’s billed as Rent’s 20th anniversary tour. It stops at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa for eight performances starting Thursday.
Even if you’ve never seen “Rent” you probably know “Seasons of Love,” its most famous song (but far from its best) and more than a little about its lore. Its writer, Jonathan Larson, adapted the characters and a bit of the plot from Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme” into a musical about starving artists (or actually artist wannabes) living in New York City in the AIDS era.
It was noted largely for its depiction of characters with AIDS who were still living their lives, not merely dying horrifically. Larson died suddenly just before the musical opened, just before his 36th birthday. It ended up winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and spawned a cult of devoted fans who came to be called “Rent Heads.” Touring productions of the show drew people lining up overnight to get tickets.
It was daring and aimed at a young audience two decades ago, and it’s still the favorite musical of a lot of people. But some people now find it dated in its all-music, no-dialogue format, and its depiction of a very specific era makes it feel (to some people at least) like a period piece.
Details: Sept 19-24, Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, $31-$90 plus service charge. 813-229-7827, strazcenter.org.