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Jonathan Larsons Influence On Musical Theatre Theatre Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

To demonstrate how a practitioner influenced the development of Musical Theatre, there will be an in depth analysis of Jonathan Larson’s works Rent and Tick, Tick…Boom, which will show how his style influenced other modern practitioners that got some of their ideas based on his works and how his works were influenced by other practitioners in the beginning.

Jonathan Larson was indeed a remarkable writer and composer who had his own stories to tell. Although his death came too early, his success can still be seen in his greatest work, the musical Rent and it may be said that As an artist, Jonathan Larson’s discovered his passion for music following Elton John and Billy Joel, but it was musical theatre that caught his eye while his parents introduced him to the musical Fiddler on the Roof. As he later on said by himself, he always wanted to write music that could incorporate all of these influences.

The path lead him to a four year drama major, but it was the composing that was his main interest and soon enough he started writing music for school productions. During his college years Jonathan Larson got in contract with the composer Stephen Sondheim, who was also his strongest musical theatre influence and later on his mentor. Sondheim told him later that Never the less he didn’t go on as an actor and took a step into the composing world,he was still a struggling artist who spend years living his life working as a waiter just to pay his bills, while writing numerous theatrical pieces with a poor success story. With the musical Tick, Tick…Boom, which was an autobiographical work of Larson’s life and was reflecting his alter ego, he finally got recognized, but still not the way he wanted to. As Siegel describes the show in New York times The songs and stories were half-funny and half-bitter tales of bad readings and waiting tables. He addressed his disappointment with putting the show of in 1994. But there was still no reason for him to give up, especially when he got into collaboration with Billy Aronson, a playwrighter who played around with the idea of updating Puccini’s opera La Boheme. The project didn’t get started until 1991, when Larson felt the need to tell the story about his friends who were diagnosed with AIDS. Larson stated himself while he was still alive and that truly represent the path that Rent went since the beginning of the show till this day. Many links between the big success of the show and Larson’s death have been made during the time, but it is not said for sure that his death is the cause for such a big success of the musical Rent. The only thing that can be said for sure is, that the show is popular as the numerous amounts of awards that the show won present. , said by Wilson Jermaine Heredi, an actor of the original cast from Rent, shows that Rent really was a new era in theatre. Never before was there a musical telling a story about HIV infected people, drugs and homosexuals. The reviews for the show were well received, as reported in New York times. But it was the audience who gave Jonathan Larson a chance and made Rent to what it is today, an award winning musicals. A musical that is different to others, because it represents Even though Rent is a parallel to Puccini’s 1896 opera La Boheme, Jonathan Larson took the idea and collaborated with Billy Areson and transformed it into a contemporary story that was never told before. The audience can get the chance to watch two pieces back-to back in a one repertoire and see the show not only as a good composers work but as an artistic creation. Artistic creation which illuminates Jonathan Larson’s brilliance, never the less Rent owes a lot to Stephen Sondheim’s work. Not that he was reproducing his ideas in his style, There are many similarities to Stephen Sondheim’s work Company, but they show the extreme contrast. The setting was changed from Upper West side to the Lower East side, as well as the characters which are presented as a poverty line of multicultural young people that are homosexual, drug addicts or over the top minded. It can be said that the shows are similar in the way how Stephen Sondheim and Jonathan Larson presented New York and their ideas. Not only did Sondheim’s influence reflect in Jonathan Larson’s Rent in the comparison to Company, but also his musical Sunday in the Park with George. There’s a common theme in both shows which demonstrate a central character that has went away from finishing something that is important forbidden personal relationship. Both shows describe that Never the less, nothing can take Larson’s accomplishment away. He was a great composer and writer who was able to take Sondheim’s ideas and recreate them with his own style. This indicates how big of an impact Stephen Sondheim made on Larson. In an interview for New York Times, Stephen Sondheim later spoke about Jonathan Larson and said that a great musical theatre composer . Stephen Sondheim as his mentor encouraged him while he was still alive to get involved with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Jonathan Larson described it as , but he appreciated the experience later, because it gave him a chance to meet new composers and that gave him more confidence in his work. At the point when he has later written more material he said

Rent is classified as a rock musical, because of its rock influence. Examples of such musicals are Hair and Spring Awakening, which are both linked to Rent. It can be said that Hair was a big influence on Rent, because of the impact it made in that era, when people weren’t talking about drugs and hippies. Hair made a big statement at that time as did Rent. Both musicals told a story of confusion in each generation. Both works may be seen as generational anthems. Not because of the protest, but of it’s finally, youthful enthusiasm, even when the youth in question is at risk. Hair can be seen as a mile stone for Rent, which later impacted on Spring Awakening. Although Spring Awakening was already written in 1891 as a play, it s shocking story of acknowledgement of adolescent sexuality broke ground aesthetically, going beyond naturalism to presage expressionism. Since times have changed and today society is more open minded to the ethnological, sexual, and all other controversial aspects of human life, the effects of Spring Awakening as well as Rent have changed. In Spring Awakening the characters are still experiencing their awakening spring of sexuality and a couple of scenes might still surprise the audience, but in general today’s community is more used to that on stage now. As Rent made theatrical history with transporting Puccini’s La Boheme to New York, Spring Awakening made its own kind of history by putting a modern spin on a controversial play. It can be said that Rent had its influences and went on passing that to other musicals.

Although Jonathan Larson didn’t get the chance to witness the success of his life’s work, he left behind two remarkable musicals, which are both in subject matter unmistakable. Similarity’s in Tick, tick…Boom, especially in the characters, for which may seem they are sometimes show that Jonathan Larson’s work had a deeper meaning and a thought of memories of his lost friends. As a composer his answer to the acknowledgement that he has just lost people that he loves was to write something in response. He later on said,Despite the fact that he never got the chance to see how his words and music inspired people, the musical Rent still goes on filling theatres with his story and the affect that he left behind may be seen in new works appearing on the stage. Jonathan Larson wanted to give all a lesson about how to go on in the time of great loss and not anything for granted.


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