Jazz and Pop, Youth and Middle Age like Young

By Francis Davis | Go to book overview

Victim Kitsch

The American theater chases after a new musical sensation with all the messianic fervor o f a religious sect pursuing redemption. And when the composer/librettist dies the day before his show begins previews, we have all the conditions required for cultural myth-making—a martyred redeemer, a new gospel, hordes of passionate young believers and canonization by The New York Times, which devoted virtually all the theater columns of a recent Arts and Leisure section to Rent, the "rock opera for our time."

ROBERT BRUSTEIN, THE NEW REPUBLIC, APRIL 22, 1996

As everyone has surely heard by now, Jonathan Larson's Rent—the seventh musical ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama and the first to do so in advance of its Broadway premiere—is a rock musical in the tradition of Hair but with even grander pretensions to opera, "sung through" by an energetic cast that plays contemporary East Village versions of the artists and paupers in Puccini's La Bohème. The painter Marcello and the poet Rudolfo have been transformed into Mark, a documentary filmmaker, and his roommate Roger, a rock singer and songwriter and a former junkie. Their friend, Tom Collins, a computer whiz fired from MIT and now homeless, is based on Puccini's philosopher, Colline. Musetta, Marcello's former lover, is Maureen, a performance artist who has decided she's a lesbian. The seamstress Mimi, Rudolfo's tubercular inamorata, is still Mimi, but now she's an exotic dancer trying her best to

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