Seasons of Love
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With its groundbreaking score, unabashed romanticism, and scrappy sensibility, Rent was like a firecracker thrown into a hushed theater, turning heads and upending conventions. But if its unexpected success was the stuff of theatrical legend, the story of its making was a bittersweet one, with composer Jonathan Larson, a student of Sondheim's finally making his Off-Broadway debut, tragically dying on the night of the final dress rehearsal. Even decades later, Rent lives on as a warmly remembered chapter in Broadway history, yet the show is too often trivialized, reduced to parody, or dissected in the service of an arid cultural politics. In light of this, journalist and theater expert Emily Garside has some questions. Chief among them: Why is Rent taken less seriously than other musicals of its caliber? And should it be? In Seasons of Love, Garside brings both a fan's devotion and a scholar's critical eye to reassess the legacy of this Pulitzer Prize–winning musical a quarter-century after its premiere. Even as the show memorably captured the experience of life on the margins in the late '90s, Garside argues that it remains an important and relevant work today. She explores the influence it had on diverse casting, immersive set design, and queer representation in the works that followed in its wake. And she dives into the world of past and present "Rentheads" who share their formative experiences with the musical, which coincided with the dawn of online fan culture. Ultimately, Rent was an uncommonly innovative and prescient musical, and as we survey past works for inspiration and look for ways to fill our theaters, there's much to learn from its example.