Broadway musical written by the late, great Jonathan Larson — who, for the record, was neither HIV-positive nor gay. Debuted in 1996 and still going strong. Essentially a modern re-write of Giacomo Puccini's beloved opera La Boheme
, but with a happier ending and a score influenced heavily by pop, rock, and techno.
The main differences between La Boheme and Rent:
Paris in the early 19th century becomes New York in the early 90s
Rodolfo the playwright becomes Roger Davis the HIV-positive musician, former heroin junkie, looking to write one hit song before succumbing to the virus he contracted from his dead girlfriend (first played by Adam Pascal)
Marcello the painter becomes Mark Cohen the filmmaker, trying to make it big (first played by Anthony Rapp, once played by Joey Fatone of N'Sync)
Benoit the landlord becomes real estate mogul Benjamin Coffin III, former roomate to Mark and Roger and a symbol of the coming gentrification of the neighborhood and the eventual death or commercialization of Bohemia (first played by Taye Diggs)
Colline the philosopher becomes Tom Collins the HIV-positive anarchist, a computer geek who sabotaged MIT's virtual reality software and teaches part-time at NYU (first played by Jesse L. Martin of Law & Order fame)
Shaunard the violinist becomes Angel Dumot Schunard the street musician, an HIV-positive sometimes-transvestite and lover to Collins (first played by Wilson Jermaine Heredia, and more famously by Jai Rodriguez from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy)
Mimi, the rhematosis-infected, dying courtesan, becomes Mimi Marquez the Latina bondage performer, HIV-positive, nineteen years old and a junkie, Roger's love interest and former girlfriend of Benjamin (first played by Daphne Rubin-Vega)
Musetta becomes hipster homeless advocate and performance artist Maureen Johnson, a lesbian, Mark's former girlfriend who left him for her stage manager (first played by Idina Menzel, who later played the Wicked Witch of the West in Wicked)
Alcindoro, Musetta's wealthy benefactor, becomes Joanne Jefferson, Maureen's new girlfriend and stage manager, whose role is significantly expanded compared to in Boheme to suit her relationship with Maureen and love-triangle with Mark (first played by Fredi Walker, at one point played by Melanie Brown of the Spice Girls)
Tuberculosis and rheumatism, the diseases which plagued crowded urban centers in the 19th century, are replaced by AIDS, the scourge of the artistic community in the 80s and early 90s
A movie version of the musical, starring the entire original cast save for Daphne Rubin-Vega (who has been replaced by Rosario Dawson), is currently being filmed.
Much like how Puccini died before he could finish his last opera, Turandot, Jonathan Larson died the day before Rent debuted, of an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm stemming from his Marfan's syndrome.