On the eve of its final dress rehearsal, just three weeks before Renthad its world premiere Off-Broadway in February 1996, Jonathan Larson (who wrote the music, lyrics and book) famously died suddenly and tragically of an aortic aneurysm, just 10 days short of his 36th birthday.

Had he lived, he would probably have made some changes to the show as it found its feet on stage, tightening and focusing the book, and giving the characters a bit more back story. But in the shocking wake of his death, no one felt that it was right to mess with what he had written, and as a result the rock musical remains messy, particularly in the fast-paced first act.

The cast of Rent at Sydney Opera House The cast of Rent. Photograph © Prudence Upton

Still, audiences embraced Rentand it quickly gained a cult following, moving to Broadway where it won four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and then onto the world, including Sydney where a production played at the Theatre Royal in 1998.

Loosely based on Puccini’s La Bohème, Rentis...