Broadway Features and Reviews
RENT: When A Wall Is Not A Wall
By Mary Bowers, Broadway Magazine
After 12 years and 5,000 performances, Rent the Musical will close at the Nederlander Theatre this September, leaving its name in Broadway history as seventh-longest running Broadway show after other behemoths Phantom of the Opera, Cats and Les Mis. And when it does leave, it will take with it the thousands of theatergoers who have also left their name on Broadway-scribbled on the wall outside.
The theatre's lime-green washed walls first became a surface for tribute-makers after the front of the theatre was repainted to represent a tenement building. The tradition began in an alley alongside the theater where celebrities from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, to Liza Minelli, left their messages of gratitude on the wall outside the stage door. The parents of Jonathan Larson, the show's composer who died of an aneurysm at the age of 35, two weeks before the show's opening, also left a eulogy. The habit soon spread to the front of the theatre, where fans waited in line for several hours every day to grab the 34 or so front row discount tickets held over for every performance.
Much of the graffiti is a tribute to the show's original stars, Anthony Pascal and Adam Rapp. "No one can beat Anthony and Adam!" reads one black sharpie-marker addition, "we love you forever!", "No day but today!" says another, referring in three inch high letters to the finale song. Others could belong on any wall, ("I heart NY") and still others seem to belong elsewhere ("R.I.P. Heath Ledger"). In any case, there will be tears when the wall is repainted in September, something company manager Nick Kaledin has already confirmed a certainty, despite calls on fan sites to have it auctioned.
It wouldn't be the first graffiti wall to go under the hammer. Back in January, a London wall sprayed by British graffiti artist Banksy was sold for over $400,000 in an online auction, with the clause, of course, that the new owner had to find a way of getting it home. Other notable celebrity shrines-the sidewalk in London into which T-Rex singer Marc Bolan drove his car in 1974, wall outside Abbey Road studios where the Beatles recorded their album of the same name, or Oscar Wilde's grave in Paris, littered with lipstick kisses and poetry, can expect to stay in the public realm for a while. Jim Morrison's grave in the same cemetery is occasionally cleaned by French authorities, but is still fiercely protected by a gendarme on patrol at all times.
Some come to the Rent wall to preserve the memory of their favorite actors, some come to preserve the day of their performance, and some come to preserve themselves. But when the final curtain goes down in the Nederlander theatre on September 7, and the wall is blank once more, it will be clear that this Broadway show, like all the others, is only mortal.
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