Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rent Era Coming To An End

From the tiny East Village theater where "Rent" was born, you can still catch a glimpse of the funky neighborhood where the hit musical was set - a scruffy courtyard, old brownstones, rusty pipes and fire escapes.

Even when "Rent" opened in 1996, the East Village was gentrifying. Well-heeled newcomers were moving in and rising rents were displacing the bohemians who inspired the show.

On June 1, after a dozen years, Broadway's seventh-longest running show is to become history, like the once-gritty neighborhood that's nearly gone as well.

"It was amazing to be living in the world you're playing on stage," says Anthony Rapp, an original cast member who lived in the East Village for many years and played the part of Mark, a budding filmmaker shooting a movie about his friends.

"Rent" was an instant sensation when it opened, dubbed an "exhilarating, landmark rock opera" by The New York Times, and when it moved to Broadway, The Associated Press said the show made the transfer with "all its raw energy, raucous musicality and radiant optimism intact."

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