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Sunday, May 31, 1998 Published at 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK


Broadway's rent rises in London

Rent raked in $150m over two years on Broadway

The cult hit musical Rent arrived in London's Shaftesbury Theatre earlier this month from Broadway, where people went to see the show over and over again. The BBC's media correspondent, Nick Higham, went to see for himself what all the fuss was about.

Rent isn't as good a musical as it might have been if its creator and composer, Jonathan Larson, had lived to work on it further.

But his death from a heart attack just a few hours after its first dress rehearsal - and after seven years struggling to bring the work to the stage while eking out a living as a waiter - proved a publicist's dream.

It mirrored the story of the show itself and helped Rent to the status of a cult success which has so far taken $150m in two years on Broadway.

It's all loosely based on Puccini's opera La Boheme. Boy gets girl, girl gets girl, boy gets drag artist. But this time the poverty-stricken bohemians live not in Paris but in New York's East Village and Aids - not TB - is the killer.

The characters are aspiring song-writers, film-makers and performance artists. Half of them are junkies.

The tunes are good - if closer to Lloyd Webber than real rock music - and the cast (including four from the original Broadway production) appealing and exploding with energy.

Here, as in New York, the front two rows in the stalls are sold cheaply (10) on the day; there are youngsters who queue to see it many times over - the English nanny Louise Woodward saw it 22 times in Boston.

But Britain's youth, used to more cynical fare like Trainspotting, may be more hard-bitten. For them Rent may prove too sentimental, even mawkish - while for the coach trade on which most long-running musicals depend it may be too uncompromising, not to say too noisy.

Rent is currently showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, until September.

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