Based loosely on Puccini's La Boheme, Rent tells the story of a group of friends struggling with love, drugs and AIDS. Among the group are the narrator - nerdy filmmaker Mark; his former lover, Maureen; Maureen's public interest lawyer lesbian lover Joanne; Mark's roommate HIV+ former drug addict, Roger; Roger's lover the HIV+ drug addicted exotic dancer, Mimi; their former roommate HIV+ computer genius Tom Collins; Collins' HIV+ drag queen street musician lover Angel; and Benjamin Coffin III a former member of the group who, after marrying a wealthy woman, has since become their landlord and the opposite of the group's Bohemian values. The second act is filled with tragedy as Angel dies and couples break up. But at the very end, when Mimi is about to die, Roger is able to sing one song that brings her back to life and leaves the audience with a sense of hope.
|Character||Male / Female||Principal / Ensemble||Vocal Range||Description|
|ANGEL DUMOTT SCHUNARD||Male||Principal||C3 - A4
|The eccentric HIV-positive street drummer. A drag queen with an incredible gift of dance and a magnetic personality. He becomes Tom's lover. Male - Range:|
|BENJAMIN COFFIN III||Male||Principal||
Bb2 - F#4
|The landlord of Mark and Roger's apartment building. A former roommate in the loft, Benny traded in his personal morals for power and wealth.|
G3 - E5
|A public interest lawyer and headstrong lesbian. She is smart and purposeful in all her decisions. Carries on a tumultuous relationship with Maureen.|
A2 - G4
|Filmmaker and video artist. Knee deep in his own soul-searching, Mark is the typical young artist. He and Roger are roommates in the loft. A bit of a nerd|
|MAUREEN JOHNSON||Female||Principal||C4 - F5
|An unpredictably zany performance artist. Maureen oozes sexuality and used to live in the loft. She has recently dumped Mark for Joanne.|
|MIMI MARQUEZ||Female||Principal||Eb3 - E5
|An HIV-positive stripper with drug addictions. Slender and sickly, she conceals it all at her job in the local strip club. She lives in the same building as the loft.|
|ROGER DAVIS||Male||Principal||F2 - A4
|A struggling musician and former drug addict. He is reminiscent of Kurt Cobain. Roommates with Mark in the loft and battles with being HIV-positive.|
|TOM COLLINS||Male||Principal|| F#2 - A4
|A computer genius and liberal professor. He is a nurturer with a smooth and relaxed disposition. Used to be a roommate in the loft and is HIV-positive.|
|MRS. COHEN||Female||Ensemble||Mark's Mom|
|MR. JEFFERSON||Male||Ensemble||Joanne's Dad|
|MRS. JEFFERSON||Female||Ensemble||Joanne's Mom|
|STEVE - Support Group||Male||Ensemble||HIV - Support Group Member|
|GORDON - Support Group||Male||Ensemble||HIV - Support Group Member|
|PAUL - Support Group||Male||Ensemble||HIV - Support Group Member|
|ALEXI DARLING||Female||Ensemble||Producer of a sleezy news show|
|HOMELESS MEN/WOMEN||Male / Female||Ensemble|
|JUNKIES||Male / Female||Ensemble|
On Christmas Eve in the 1990s in Manhattan's East Village, two roommates—Mark, a filmmaker, and Roger, a rock musician—struggle to stay warm and produce their art ("Tune Up #1"). Their friend Collins, a gay anarchist professor, plans to surprise them at their apartment, but is mugged before entering. At the same time, Roger and Mark's former roommate Benny, who has since become their harsh new landlord, has reneged on an earlier agreement and now demands last year's rent, before shutting down their electrical power ("Tune Up #2"); however, Mark and Roger pledge to never pay the rent ("Rent"). Meanwhile, a cross-dressing street drummer named Angel finds Collins wounded in an alley and tends to him ("You Okay, Honey?"). The two are immediately attracted to each other, and learn that they are both HIV positive. Roger also has HIV, as did his last girlfriend, who committed suicide. Mark goes looking for Collins ("Tune Up #3"), while Roger dreams of writing one last great song ("One Song Glory"). An exotic dancer and neighbor, Mimi, walks in to flirt with Roger, who is hesitant to start a new relationship ("Light My Candle"). Meanwhile, a voicemail reveals that Joanne, a lawyer, is the new girlfriend of Maureen, a protest artist who recently dumped Mark ("Voicemail #2").
At last, the missing Collins enters the apartment, presenting Angel, who is now in full drag and shares money she made and the amusing story of how she attained it ("Today 4 U"). Benny arrives, speaking of Maureen's upcoming protest against his plans to evict the homeless from a lot where he is hoping to build a cyber arts studio. Benny offers that, if they convince Maureen to cancel the protest, then they can officially remain rent-free tenants ("You'll See"). However, the two rebuff Benny's offer and he leaves. Mark must leave to fix Maureen's sound equipment for the protest, but he meets Joanne at the stage. They overcome their awkwardness by connecting over their shared distrust of Maureen's promiscuous behaviors ("Tango: Maureen"). Mark then films an HIV support group meeting ("Life Support"), while Mimi attempts to seduce Roger alone in the apartment ("Out Tonight"), though he coldly denies her ("Another Day"). After Mimi leaves, Roger reflects on his fear of dying from AIDS, while the life-support group echoes his thoughts ("Will I?").
On the way home, Collins, Mark, and Angel protect a homeless woman from police harassment, but she mocks them ("On the Street"). Collins talks about his dream of escaping New York City ("Santa Fe"), and, soon, Collins and Angel confess their love for each other ("I'll Cover You"). Joanne exasperatedly prepares for Maureen's show ("We're Okay"), and Roger apologizes to Mimi, inviting her to come to the protest and the dinner afterwards. Police, vendors, and homeless people prepare for the protest ("Christmas Bells"), and Maureen begins her flamboyant and avant-garde performance ("Over The Moon"). At Life Café after the show, Benny criticizes the protest and the group's bohemian lifestyle. In response, Mark and all the café's bohemian regulars defiantly rise up to celebrate their lifestyle ("La Vie Bohème A"). Mimi and Roger each discover that the other is HIV-positive and decide to move forward with their relationship ("I Should Tell You"). Joanne explains that Mark and Roger's building has been padlocked and a riot has broken out, just before Roger and Mimi share their first kiss ("La Vie Bohème B").
The cast lines up to sing "Seasons of Love," before the plot resumes with Mark and Roger gathering to break back into their locked apartment with their friends ("Happy New Year A"). A series of voicemails reveal that Mark's footage of the riot earned him a job offering at a tabloid news company ("Voicemail #3"). The others finally break through the door just as Benny arrives, saying he wants to call a truce, revealing that Mimi, a former girlfriend of his, convinced him to change his mind. Mimi denies rekindling her relationship with Benny, but Roger is upset, and Mimi goes to her drug dealer for a fix ("Happy New Year B").
Later, Maureen cites Joanne's controlling behavior and Joanne cites Maureen's promiscuous mannerisms during a fight, and they break up ("Take Me Or Leave Me"). Time speeds on to spring ("Seasons of Love B"), but Roger and Mimi's relationship is strained by her escalating heroin usage. Each alone, Roger and Mimi sing of love and loneliness ("Without You"). Collins nurses Angel, whose health is declining from AIDS. Mark continues to receive calls offering a corporate job ("Voicemail #4"). The straight and lesbian couples have devolved into on-and-off relationships. A dance is performed representing all the couples' sex-lives ("Contact"). At the climax of the number, the two former couples break up, and Angel suddenly dies. At the funeral, the friends briefly come together to share their memories with Collins being the last to reminisce ("I'll Cover You [Reprise]"). Mark expresses his fear of being the only one left surviving when the rest of his friends die of AIDS ("Halloween"), and he finally accepts the corporate job offer. Roger reveals that he is leaving for Santa Fe, which sparks an argument about commitment between him and Mimi, and between Maureen and Joanne. Collins arrives and admonishes the entire group for fighting on the day of Angel's funeral, causing Maureen and Joanne to reconcile, but not Mimi and Roger ("Goodbye Love"). Collins is forcibly removed from the church for being unable to pay for Angel's funeral. Benny shows compassion by paying, causing him and Benny to recuperate their old friendship.
Months later, both Mark and Roger are simultaneously reaching an artistic epiphany, as Roger finds his song in Mimi and Mark finds his film in Angel's memory. Roger returns to New York just in time for Christmas, and Mark quits his job to work on his own film once more ("What You Own"). The characters' parents leave several messages on their phones ("Voicemail #5"), and on Christmas Eve, exactly one year having passed, Mark prepares to screen his now-completed film to his friends. Roger has written his song, but no one can find Mimi for him to play it to. Benny's wife, discovering Benny's relationship with Mimi, has pulled Benny out of the East Village; the power suddenly blows and Collins enters with handfuls of cash, revealing that he reprogrammed an ATM at a grocery store to provide money to anybody with the code (A-N-G-E-L). Maureen and Joanne abruptly enter carrying Mimi, who has been homeless and is now weak and close to death. She begins to fade, but not before telling Roger that she loves him ("Finale A"). Roger tells her to hold on as he plays her the song he wrote for her, which reveals the depths of his feelings for her ("Your Eyes"). Mimi appears to die, but abruptly awakens, claiming to have been heading into a white light, except that a vision of Angel told her to go back. The remaining friends gather together in a final moment of shared happiness and resolve to enjoy whatever time they have left with each other, affirming that there is "no day but today" ("Finale B").