Jonathan Larson first began work on Rent when he was twenty-nine years old. Living in a shabby Manhattan apartment not unlike the one Mark and Roger inhabit in the show, his New York City in 1989 was awash with homelessness, crack cocaine, and the deadly AIDS epidemic. He was recommended as a composer/lyricist to playwright Billy Aronson, who was interested in creating a musical adaptation of Puccini’s opera La Bohème. The two met and workshopped some of the musical (including first drafts of what would become the songs Rent, Santa Fe, and I Should Tell You) but the project stalled. A

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