... was conceived in 1988 by the American playwright Billy Aronson, whose vision was to create "a musical based on Puccini's La Bohème, in which the luscious splendor of Puccini's world would be replaced with the coarseness and noise of modern New York." Aronson began collaborating with composer Jonathan Larson, who eventually took over the project – on the understanding that Aronson would receive a credit if the show ever got to Broadway.

Many of the characters and plot elements in Rent are drawn from La Bohème. Both are about the lives of young artists; the names and identities of Larson's characters parallel those of Puccini. The scourge of tuberculosis is a major theme in La Bohème; in Rent this is replaced by HIV and AIDS.

Wikipedia also draws several musical parallels between the two works; for example, Larson's song Light My Candle "draws melodic content directly from Che gelida manina [Your Tiny Hand is Frozen]."

Rent opened at the New York Theater Workshop, off–Broadway, on 25 January 1996 – 100 years, to within a week, after the premiere of La Bohème had taken place in Turin. Tragically, Jonathan Larson had died suddenly in the early hours of the very day on which his show was to open.

Rent was an immediate hit, and was soon forced to move to a larger theatre. On 29 April 1996 it opened at the Nederlander Theater on Broadway, where it would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize and three Tony awards. It opened in London's West End in April 1998, with many members of the original Broadway cast, and touring productions began in the USA as early as 1996. The original Broadway production closed in 2008 after a run of 12 years and 5,123 performances, making it the eleventh–longest–running show in Broadway history.

© Haydn Thompson 2022