“Seasons of Love”

Derek and I recently went to see the 20th anniversary production of Rent at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center.  It was a great production that brought back a lot of great memories.  The first day I met Derek 20 years ago I was wearing a Rent T shirt.  He asked me if I had seen the show and I asked him if he wanted to go and see it with me.  This was a pretty lame line to try and get his phone number (the show wasn’t playing in Florida, I had seen it in Chicago before I had moved) but it worked, I got his phone number and we have seen the show a few times in the last 2 decades.  

The musical was written and composed by Jonathan David Larson (February 4, 1960 – January 25, 1996).  He was an American composer and playwright noted for exploring the social issues of multiculturalism, addiction, and homophobia in his work.  

I did a little research on Jonathan and to my surprise it turns out that the show Rent is actually quite autobiographical.  He was born in White Plains, New York into a Jewish family.  He participated from an early age in the performing arts including band, choir and drama class.  As a young adult he moved into a 5th story loft in lower Manhattan with no heat and a variety of roommates.  He worked as a waiter for 10 years on the weekends at the Moondance Diner.  If you are familiar with the play, these are all scenes from the show and a lot of the people that he lived with and worked with became the characters and original cast of the musical.  

Jonathan died unexpectedly the morning of Rent’s first preview performance Off Broadway. He suffered an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by an undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, in the early morning on January 25, 1996.  He was 35 years old. He never saw the show performed in front of an audience.  

To my surprise, I found out the next day that at the same time I was watching Rent on stage, more than a dozen Marjory Douglas High School drama students were performing “Seasons of Love”, the iconic theme song from Rent, at the Tony Awards.  The students were accompanying their drama teacher, Melody Herzfeld, who had just received the 2018 Excellence in Theatre Education Award from the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University. Herzfeld saved 65 lives by barricading her students into a small classroom closet on Valentine’s Day when a former student went on a shooting rampage, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others.

I have to be honest that I was moved to tears when I watched the video of the students singing on stage.  “It’s time now to sing out because the story never ends,” the students sang as the audience wiped their tears and cheered. “Let’s celebrate, remember … the life of friends. It’s about love.”  

I think that Jonathan would be proud to know that even though we still have our struggles, the best way to measure a life is still to measure it in love. 


Mark Ramey