Jonathan Larson Dies

Jonathan Larson (February 4, 1960 – January 25, 1996) was an American composer and playwright noted for the serious social issues of multiculturalism, addiction, homophobia, and AIDS explored in his work.

Typical examples of his use of these themes are found in his works, Rent and tick, tick... BOOM!. He received two Tony Awards and a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the musical Rent.

Rent started as a staged reading in 1993 at the New York Theatre Workshop, followed by a studio production that played a three-week run a year later. However, the version that is now known worldwide, a result of the years-long collaborative and editing process between Larson and the producers and director, was not publicly performed before Larson's death. Larson died of an aortic aneurysm, believed to have been caused by Marfan syndrome, in the early morning on January 25, 1996. It is believed that if the aortic aneurysm had been properly diagnosed and treated, Larson would have lived.

He had been suffering chest pains and nausea for several days prior, but doctors at St. Vincents Hospital could not find signs of a heart attack and so misdiagnosed it either as flu or stress. The show premiered off-Broadway that night, on schedule. Larson's parents (who were flying in for the show anyway) gave their blessing to open the show. Due to Larson's death the day before opening night, the cast sang the song "Seasons of Love" as the opening number in memory of him. The cast had agreed beforehand that in light of the tragedy they would just sing through the show that night sitting at three tables lined up on stage. But by the time the show got to its high energy "La Vie Boheme", the cast could no longer contain themselves and did the rest of the show as it was meant to be, minus costumes.

Rent played through its planned engagement to sold-out crowds and was continuously extended. The decision was finally made to move the show to Broadway, and it opened at the Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996. In addition to the New York Theatre Workshop, Rent was and is produced by Jeffrey Seller, who was introduced to Larson's work when attending an off-Broadway performance of Boho Days, and two of his producer friends who also wished to support the work, Kevin McCollum and Allan S. Gordon.