La Vie Boheme! Jonathan Larson's iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning musical that shaped a generation of audiences and taught us all to measure our life in love.
Show Essentials
+ Ensemble

Full Synopsis

Act One

Mark, a filmmaker and the show's narrator, is spending a cold Christmas Eve in the Lower East Side industrial loft that he shares with his musician roommate, Roger. They receive several phone calls ("Tune Up / Voice Mail #1"). The first is from Mark's mother, consoling him over the loss of his girlfriend, Maureen, a performance artist, to JoAnne, a Harvard Law School graduate. The second is from their friend, Tom Collins, who is detained by muggers. The last is from their landlord, Benny, demanding the rent. The power blows and so do Roger and Mark's tops ("Rent").

Outside, Collins is reeling from the mugging. He is comforted by Angel, a street musician, who offers him a helping hand ("You Okay, Honey?") Both HIV+, Angel and Collins head out for a night on the town and a life support meeting.

In response to a call for help, Mark sets out for the lot where Maureen is performing a protest against Benny's eviction of the homeless from a nearby lot. He urges Roger to come along but he refuses; as Mark reports, Roger has not left the apartment in six months. He is still reeling from the suicide of his girlfriend, who slashed her wrists upon learning that she had AIDS. Roger tries to write a song but the only melody that he finds is "Musetta's Waltz" from Puccini's La Boheme ("One Song Glory").

Mimi, an S&M dancer who lives below Mark and Roger, knocks with a request: "Light My Candle." The attraction between her and Roger is immediate, but Roger shies away and shows her the door. Mimi knocks again. She has lost her stash. Roger helps her look, and Mimi eventually finds it – in Roger's back pocket.

As Joanne wrangles with the sound equipment for Maureen's performance, her parents leave her "Voice Mail #2," pleading with her to come to her mother's confirmation hearings in Washington. Collins arrives at the loft with a bag full of goodies. This includes Angel, transvested into Angel Dumott Shunard and gloriously arrayed in his Christmas finest – wig, glitter and platform pumps. In "Today 4 U," Angel explains how he earned $1,000: a wealthy woman hired him to play the drums until her neighbor's yappy Akita barked itself to death.

Benny enters with a proposal ("You'll See"): if Mark and Roger stop Maureen's protest, he will forgo the rent. He entices them with plans for Cyber Arts, a state-of-the-art, multimedia studio that will realize all of their dreams. Unsuccessful, Benny leaves. Mark, Collins and Angel try to coax Roger into coming to the life support meeting with them but he refuses.

Mark finally reaches the lot where Maureen will perform her protest. He encounters Joanne, still struggling with the sound equipment and the many demands that Maureen makes upon her. Mark offers help. Although they dreaded meeting, they have a lot in common ("Tango: Maureen"). Once he finishes, Mark joins Angel and Collins at the "Life Support" meeting.

In her apartment, Mimi dresses and appeals to an imaginary Roger to take her "Out Tonight." She barges into his apartment and continues her appeal to the actual Roger but, after a passionate kiss, he vehemently rejects her. They fight, her words blending with the affirmation of the support group that emphasizes the importance of living the moment ("Another Day"). A young man from the support group asks quietly, "Will I lose my dignity / Will someone care?" ("Will I?") His thoughts and fears are echoed by each member of the community. The thoughts are Roger's, too, and he decides to go outside.

After the meeting, Mark, Angel and Collins roam the lot and rescue a homeless woman from the taunts and nightsticks of the neighborhood cops ("On the Street"). Discouraged by life in New York, the three dream of opening up a restaurant in "Santa Fe." Alone at last, Angel and Collins finally express their love for each other ("I'll Cover You"). Joanne, meanwhile has her hands full with juggling work, parents and the ever-demanding Maureen... all over the phone ("We're Okay").

The scene changes to St. Mark's Place, where vendors hawk their wares to the bohemians of the East Village ("Christmas Bells"). Angel buys a new coat for Collins. Mark finds Roger, who spots Mimi looking for drugs. Roger apologizes and asks her to dinner. Just as the snow begins to fall, Maureen finally appears on her motorcycle to perform her protest, "Over the Moon."

Following the protest, all convene at the Life Café, including Benny, who announces that Bohemia is dead. Thus ensues a makeshift mock-wake that quickly segues into a celebration of "La Vie Boheme." During the song, Benny confronts Mimi and threatens to reveal their past affair to Roger. Beepers go off to remind the revelers to take their AZT. Roger and Mimi each discover that the other is HIV+. Frightened and excited, they vow to be together ("I Should Tell You").

Joanne has been sent back to the lot by Maureen several times to check on the equipment. She finally rebels, telling Maureen that their relationship is over and announcing a riot in the lot: Benny has padlocked the building and called the cops, but the homeless are standing their ground... and mooing. The artists rejoice, the riot continues and Roger and Mimi share a small, lovely kiss.

Act Two

The second act begins with the company posing the question, "How do you measure a year in the life?" ("Seasons of Love"). It is one week later, New Year's Eve, and Mark, Roger, Mimi, Maureen, Joanne, Angel and Collins are having a breaking-back-into-the-building party ("Happy New Year"). Once inside, Mark listens to one more phone message from his mother in Scarsdale, as well as one from Alexi Darling, a tabloid TV producer who is salivating over his footage of the riot ("Voice Mail #3"). Benny crashes the party, angering Roger and alienating Roger from Mimi. Dejected, Mimi wanders outside and into the welcoming arms of her drug dealer.

Mark fast forwards to Valentine's Day. Roger and Mimi are still together. Angel and Collins could be anywhere. Maureen and Joanne are still rehearsing another show, but it is not going well ("Take Me or Leave Me").

The company reprises "Seasons of Love," and time marches forward again to the spring. Roger and Mimi have a fight and Roger walks out. Alone, Mimi reflects on what life would be like without Roger ("Without You"). At the same time, Collins nurses a sick Angel; Maureen and Joanne reconcile; as do Mimi and Roger.

At the end of the summer, Alexi is still courting Mark for her TV show ("Voice Mail #4"). Unsatisfied by love's complications, Roger and Mimi break up, as do Maureen and Joanne. Angel dies ("Contact"). At a memorial service, his friends remember his spirit. Collins remembers his love ("I'll Cover You – Reprise").

Outside of the church, Mark phones Alexi to accept the job. Mark ponders how life has changed since last year as he recalls the joys of that one night last Christmas ("Halloween"). As the mourners leave the church, Mimi confirms that Roger has sold his guitar and is leaving town. Roger confirms that Mimi is now with Benny. A fight erupts among Roger, Mimi, Maureen, Joanne and Benny. Collins interrupts them with the sorrowful reality that the family is breaking up. Joanne and Maureen reunite. Mimi and Benny leave.

Mark tries to convince Roger to stay in New York and face both his own pain and the fact that Mimi is very sick. Roger attacks Mark, accusing him of hiding from his feelings. Mimi enters, having overheard the entire angry exchange, and bids Roger farewell ("Goodbye, Love"). Roger leaves town. Mimi turns to Mark for help. Benny offers one helping hand to Mimi and extends the other to Collins to help him pay Angel's funeral expenses. Mimi refuses the help and flees. Collins accepts and he and Benny go out for a drink.

Mark considers the events and faces the last year, as does Roger, who is on his way to Santa Fe. Roger begins to discover his own song, and Mark turns down the television job to finish his own film ("What You Own").

Roger's mom, Mark's mom, Mimi's mom and JoAnne's father all wonder where their children are ("Voice Mail #5"). Back at the loft, Mark tells us again that it's Christmas and he now has a rough version of his film, which he's going to show tonight. Roger has returned with his song written, but cannot find Mimi. Collins enters with money that he has gotten from an ATM, rewired to give money to anyone with a special password: A-N-G-E-L.

Maureen and Joanne suddenly arrive, holding Mimi, whom they found collapsed and near death in the park. Roger begs her not to die and sings for her the song it has taken him all year to write, "Your Eyes." Mimi dies as Roger wails her name over a blast of Puccini's music. Mimi suddenly awakens; it seems that a guardian Angel was watching over her.

The company joins in a reprise of the affirmation that love is all and that there is "no day but today" ("Finale").

← Back to Rent
Cast Size: Flexible Cast Size
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

Roger Davis
A struggling musician and former drug addict. He is reminiscent of Kurt Cobain. Roommates with Mark in the loft and battles with being HIV-positive.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 25
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: F2
Mark Cohen
Filmmaker and video artist. Knee deep in his own soul-searching, Mark is the typical young artist. He and Roger are roommates in the loft. A bit of a nerd.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 30
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Tom Collins
A computer genius and liberal professor. He is a nurturer with a smooth and relaxed disposition. Used to be a roommate in the loft and is HIV-positive.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: F#2
Benjamin Coffin Iii
The landlord of Mark and Roger's apartment building. A former roommate in the loft, Benny traded in his personal morals for power and wealth.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: F#4
Vocal range bottom: Bb2
Joanne Jefferson
A public interest lawyer and headstrong lesbian. She is smart and purposeful in all her decisions. Carries on a tumultuous relationship with Maureen.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 40
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Angel Dumott Schunard
The eccentric HIV-positive street drummer. A drag queen with an incredible gift of dance and a magnetic personality. He becomes Tom's lover.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 30
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: C3
Mimi Marquez
An HIV-positive stripper with drug addictions. Slender and sickly, she conceals it all at her job in the local strip club. She lives in the same building as the loft.
Gender: female
Age: 18 to 21
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: Eb3
Maureen Johnson
An unpredictably zany performance artist. Maureen oozes sexuality and used to live in the loft. She has recently dumped Mark for Joanne.
Gender: female
Age: 20 to 25
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: C4
Homeless Men & Women; Junkies, Parents (Mrs. Cohen, Mr. & Mrs. Jefferson); Support Group (Steve, Gordon)
Full Song List
Rent: Tune Up A
Rent: Voicemail #1
Rent: Tune Up B
Rent: Rent
Rent: You Okay Honey?
Rent: Tune Up - Reprise
Rent: One Song Glory
Rent: Light My Candle
Rent: Voicemail #2
Rent: Today For You A
Rent: You'll See
Rent: Tango Maureen
Rent: Life Support
Rent: Out Tonight
Rent: Another Day
Rent: Will I?
Rent: On the Street
Rent: Santa Fe
Rent: I'll Cover You
Rent: We're Okay
Rent: Christmas Bells
Rent: Over the Moon
Rent: La Vie Boheme
Rent: I Should Tell You
Rent: La Vie Boheme B
Rent: Seasons of Love A
Rent: Happy New Year A
Rent: Voicemail #3
Rent: Happy New Year B
Rent: Take Me or Leave Me
Rent: Seasons of Love B
Rent: Without You
Rent: Voicemail #5
Rent: Contact
Rent: I'll Cover You - Reprise
Rent: Halloween
Rent: Goodbye Love
Rent: What You Own
Rent: Voicemail #6
Rent: Finale A
Rent: Your Eyes
Rent: Finale B

Show History


Jonathan Larson had been a "starving artist" living the bohemian life for several years, when, in 1989, his friend and fellow struggling playwright, Billy Aronson suggested a contemporary, American version of Puccini's La Boheme. Instantly, Larson saw the possibilities of exploring AIDS, homelessness, sexuality and the struggle for art in an East Village setting. He envisioned a "Hair for the 90s," that could "bring musical theater to the MTV generation." Initially, Aronson and Larson developed Rent together, writing early drafts of the title song, as well as "Santa Fe" and "I Should Tell You". Eventually, the two parted ways amicably, and Larson continued to develop the show on his own. 


Rent had several stages of development before it reached production. The first staged reading occurred in March of 1993. Writer, Jonathan Larson, was awarded a Richard Rodgers Development Award in January 1994, for which he had applied on the advice of his mentor and hero, Stephen Sondheim. The $45,000 prized helped finance a two-week workshop of Rent that took place in November of that year. Two of the people in the audience were up-and-coming producers, Jeffrey Seller and Kevin McCollum. Based on the strength of the workshop presentation, the two agreed to partner with the New York Theater Workshop to stage a full production the following year, where it officially opened on January 25, 1996.

Rent moved to Broadway's Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996, where it ran for twelve years and 5,123 performances. The success of the show led to several national tours and numerous foreign productions.

Cultural Influence

  • In 2005, Christopher Columbus made a movie version of Rent that featured many of the original cast members from the Broadway production.
  • The final performance of Rent, on September 7, 2008, was filmed. Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway also included footage from the closing night celebration. It had a limited theatrical release in late September 2008 and was then released on DVD and Blu-ray.
  • Rent originated the now-common practice of Broadway Rush. Two hours before each performance, he show's producers offered 34 seats in the front two rows of the orchestra for $20 each. Fans would camp out for hours in front of the Nederlander Theater in order to get the tickets. These fans became known as "Rent Heads."


  • If the real-life "back story" behind the phenomenon of Rent had been submitted to a Hollywood studio, most executives probably would have dismissed the script as "unbelievable:" A struggling composer spends years, waiting tables and enduring frustration and rejection. Then, on the very night his career is finally about to take flight, he inexplicably collapses and dies, never knowing the degree to which his work would eventually impact the theatrical world, of which he so desperately wanted to be part. 

Yet, as anyone who follows theatre is aware, this is precisely what happened to Jonathan Larson, the 36-year old composer of Rent, who suffered a fatal aortic aneuryism on January 25, 1996... which was to have been the first Off-Broadway preview of Rent at the New York Theater Workshop.
  • In the fall of 1992, Larson had a completed first draft, which he dropped off with a demo tape at the office of James Nicola, the Artistic Director of New York Theater Workshop, who agreed to stage a reading of the show. "What drew Jonathan and me together in a philosophical place was the belief in how tragic it was that pop music and theater music had gotten a divorce. I felt he was the first composer I had run into who had the possibility of doing something about it," Nicola said.
  • Although the response to the music was overwhelmingly positive, it was clear that there were structural problems with the piece. Director, Michael Greif, was brought on board to begin to address some of these issues. As Greif recalled in The New York Times, "Jonathan had firm ideas and he loved battling them out with us, but there was give and take."
  • The Broadway production of Rent grossed over $280 million.
  • Since 1918, only eight musicals have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; of those eight, six are MTI Musicals: Of Thee I Sing (1932), Fiorello! (1960), How to Succeed... (1962), Sunday in the Park with George (1985), Rent (1996) and Next to Normal (2010).

Critical Reaction

"What makes Rent so wonderful is not its hipness quotient, but its extraordinary spirit of hopeful defiance and humanity."
– The New York Times

"Rent is the best show in years, if not decades."
– Variety

"At last, a show that lives up to its hype! Rent is theatre at its best: passionate, exhuberant, uplifting, and joyous."
– Theatremania

Tony® Award

1996 - Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Nominee (Idina Menzel)
1996 - Best Lighting Design, Nominee (Blake Burba)
1996 - Best Choreography, Nominee (Marlies Yearby)
1996 - Best Direction Of A Musical, Nominee (Michael Greif)
1996 - Outstanding Book of a Musical, Winner (Jonathan Larson)
1996 - Best Musical, Winner (Rent)
1996 - Best Original Score, Winner (Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson)
1996 - Best Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Adam Pascal)
1996 - Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Winner (Wilson Jermaine Heredia)
1996 - Best Actress in a Musical, Nominee (Daphne Rubin-Vega)

Drama Desk Award

1996 - Outstanding Lyrics, Winner (Jonathan Larson)
1996 - Outstanding Costume Design, Nominee (Angel Wendt)
1996 - Outstanding Musical, Winner (Rent)
1996 - Outstanding Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Adam Pascal)
1996 - Outstanding Actress in a Musical, Nominee (Daphe Rubin-Vega)
1996 - Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical, Winner (Wilson Jermaine Heredia)
1996 - Outstanding Orchestrations, Winner (Steve Skinner)
1996 - Outstanding Music, Winner (Jonathan Larson)

Pulitzer Prize

1996 - Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Winner (Jonathan Larson)

Theatre World Award

1996 - Outstanding Debut Performance, Winner (Adam Pascal)
1996 - Outstanding Debut Performance, Winner (Daphne Rubin-Vega)

New York Drama Critics Circle Award

1996 - Best Musical, Winner (Rent)

Outer Critics Circle Award

1996 - Best Off-Broadway Musical, Winner (Rent)




You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
Book, Music and Lyrics by
Musical Arrangements
Original Concept/Additional Lyrics
Steve Skinner
Billy Aronson
Music Supervision
and Additional Arrangements
Tim Weil
Lynn Thomson
RENT was originally produced in New York
by New York Theatre Workshop and on Broadway
by Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Allan S. Gordon
and the New York Theatre Workshop

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