Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
28 April – 11 May 2017
Jonathan Larson was born in White Plains, New York, in Westchester County to a Jewish family. Since he was little he was exposed to the performing arts as music and theater. He played the trumpet and tuba in his high school band, was involved in his school’s choir and took formal piano lessons. His early musical influences were rock musicians such as Elton John and Billy Joel, as well as the classic composers of musical theater, especially Stephen Sondheim and the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Larson was also considered a great actor in high school, performing in lead roles in various productions at White Plains High School.
Larson went to Adelphi University in Garden City, Long Island, with a four-year scholarship as an acting major. In addition to performing in numerous plays and musicals during college, he began composing music, first for small student productions and later the score to a musical entitled “Libro de Buen Amor” (Book of Good Love), written by the department head, Jacques Burdick, who functioned as Larson’s mentor. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, he participated in a summer stock theater program in Augusta, Michigan, as a piano player, the result of which was the earning of an Equity Card for membership in the Actors’ Equity Association.
Later Larson moved to a loft with no heat on the fifth floor of a building at the corner of Greenwich Street and Spring Street in Lower Manhattan. His own friends, who lived in a harsh situation too, always described his apartment as the worse of them all. Even so, every Christmas Larson threw a party for all his friends and work colleagues, where everybody brought something. After dinner, there was usually music or acting performances from Jonathan and his friends.
For about ten years he worked as a waiter at the Moondance Diner during weekends and worked on composing and writing musicals during the weekdays. At the diner Larson later met Jesse L. Martin, who was his waiting trainee and later would perform the role of Tom Collins in the original cast of Larson’s Rent.
One Jonathan Larson’s best musicals is Tick, Tick…BOOM!, where Larson writes about a waiter wanting to be a waiter, but unable to make any success. Some say it was almost an autobiography. During the performances of this musical, he met Stephen Sondheim, who later would help him produce Rent and whose name even is mentioned in the song ‘La Vie Bohème’ from Rent. Rent a worldwide known musical, which gained Larson the Pulitzer and the Tony award, is the rock adaption of Puccini’s La Bohème.
On the night of the final rehearsal, one night before Rent’s premiere Jonathan Larson suddenly died of an aneurysm from Marfan Syndrom. It was ten days before his 36th birthday. Jonathan Larson never got to see his masterpiece on Broadway.