“No show runs forever” was one of the more astute observations of Broadway director-choreographer Michael Bennett, the man behind “A Chorus Line,” itself a model of longevity.
Bennett’s theater truism was re-enforced this week with the announcement that the pop-rock musical “Rent” will close June 1 after a 12-year run, 5,012 performances and an assortment of prizes and awards, including the Tony and Pulitzer — not to mention grosses of over $280 million.
Inspired by the Puccini opera “La Boheme,” Jonathan Larson’s look at the counterculture residents of New York’s East Village in the early 1990s was one of those shows you might have thought would always be around. It spoke to a generation, much like “Hair” did in the late 1960s and perhaps “Spring Awakening” does to the current crop of young theatergoers.
“Rent” was born in tragedy, with the 35-year-old Larson dying just before the show began performances at off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop. The musical received rave reviews and in April 1996 quickly moved to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre, where it became the theater’s longest-running tenant.
“Rent” will end its engagement in seventh place on Broadway’s long-run list, behind “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats,” “Les Miserables,” “A Chorus Line,” “Oh! Calcutta!” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
“Phantom,” of course, is still on the boards — Broadway’s longest running show. And on Saturday Jan. 26, when it plays performances number 8,318 and 8,319, “Phantom” will celebrate its 20th year on Broadway. Stay tuned for its final curtain. You may have to wait a while — but it will come.