|Pen and glasses on a musical notebook|
Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash
A music educator in California schools, Anthony “Tony” Atienza was named the California Music Educators Association SBS Multicultural Teacher of the Year in 2011. He has served as a vocal music director, a choral director, and a teacher of music appreciation to students in college and middle and high school, and as a music director for local youth theater companies. Tony Atienza has served as musical director for numerous shows, including the ground-breaking Rent.
Composer Jonathan Larson’s musical has moved audiences since 1996. Larson based the work on the classic La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini, which premiered a full century earlier, in 1896. Rent is filled with memorable songs - the catchy “La Vie Boheme,” the heartbreaking “Without You,” and the poignant lyricism of “Seasons of Love.” It also vividly measures the lives of Larson and his friends, grounding itself in their experiences of trying to make it in New York’s theater world in the early 1980s.
Larson died suddenly in 1996, a day before Rent’s previews were slated to open off-Broadway. He had devoted seven years to bringing the show to life and preparing it for the stage. Twenty years later Larson’s friends contributed to a Playbill article, remembering the Soho apartment where he lived, with its disintegrating floorboards, flimsy furniture, and heat that came only from the oven.
Some cultural references in the play have become dated, but Rent continues to be a rich and meaningful theater experience, a story of friendship, grit, and the joy of performing.