Last Updated on 25th January 2021
Today, we take time to remember the genius of Jonathan Larson, the composer of Rent who passed away 25 years ago on this day.
Jonathan Larson’s star burned briefly but with a fire that still dazzles musical theatregoers around the world predominantly through his musical RENT!
Jonathan Larson was born in 1960 and passed away on 25 January 1996 on the morning of Rent’s first preview performance Off-Broadway suffering an aortic dissection. He was just 10 days away from his 36th birthday.
Prior to Rent, Jonathan Larson was the recipient of the Richard Rodgers Development Grant for the rock musical Superbia and the Stephen Sondheim Award from the American Music Theatre Festival in 1989.
Whilst most are familiar with RENT, he also wrote J.P. Morgan Saves The Nation and Tick, Tick…BOOM! He was a song contributor to Sesame Street and created a number of children’s book cassettes including Steven Spielberg’s An American Tale and Land Before Time and also wrote four songs for a children’s musical video called Away We Go!.
The stratospheric success of Rent saw Larson posthumously win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, four Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score, The Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical; the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical in the Off-Broadway category; and three Obie Awards for Outstanding Book, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Music.
Rent became the 11th Longest Running Show in Broadway History closing on 7 September 2008. The musical has been presented all over the world and was adapted for the big screen in 2005. Broadway historian Jennifer Ashley Tepper conceived and directed The Jonathan Larson Project which was presented on stage at Feinstein’s / 54 Below in New York in 2018.
One of the legacies of Jonathan’s life and career are the Jonathan Larson Grants set up by his family to honour emerging theatre writers and composers. Recipients since the award’s inception include Dave Malloy, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Joe Iconis, Nell Benjamin, Chad Beguelin and Matt Sklar.
A passionate musical theatre fan and talented musician, we thought it appropriate to bring you this selection of his work to mark 25 years since Jonathan left us.