Jonathan Larson

Jonathan Larson

Biography

Jonathan Larson rewrote the rules for musical theater in the late 20th century, crafting the first musical in decades that truly spoke to younger audiences. Rent, with its glorious mash-up of musical styles and heartfelt lyricism, absolutely exploded on Broadway when it opened in 1996, earning a Pulitzer Prize, four Tonys and assorted other awards. Larson, who grew up in White Plains, NY, played tuba in high school and cherished aspirations of acting, but his mentor and hero Steven Sondheim convinced him to pursue composing instead. His early work includes "Tick, Tick...BOOM!" and "Suburbia," but Rent represents the fullest flowering of his talent. Larson first conceived of Rent when he and a friend decided to remake Puccini's La Boheme with modern characters set in New York. Larson ended up taking over the project, basing much of it on his own experiences as a poor, struggling artist living in downtown Manhattan. He transposed Puccini's characters into more modern types -- a punk, a videographer, an HIV positive woman -- and drew on rock, soul, salsa and pop to create the music. The night before Rent previews were set to open, Larson collapsed and died unexpectedly of an aortic aneurysm. His family gave the production their blessing to go on as scheduled, and the rest is history. The play was made into a film in 2005.

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