Larson left us way too soon


Lily Kinnick, staff writer

Jonathan Larson was born February 4th, 1960 in White Plains, New York to Allan and Nanette Larson. He lived his life in poverty and waiting tables at a small diner and died young, though his legacy lives on in the words and songs he’s left behind.

From an early age Larson showed interest in the theater and song making, as he spent a good deal of his time participating in drama clubs and in music lessons. Larson dreamed of becoming an actor, but later focused on composing music after Stephen Sondheim– a famous American composer and lyricist– recommended it. It was here that Larson began his futuristic rock and roll musical project “Superbia.” 

Superbia was Larson’s dream, his hopes, and his life. He dedicated his youth to bring Superbia to life, constantly rewriting and reworking to bring originality to the stage of Broadway that could connect to the younger audience. After eight years of writing and slaving away at a desk, Superbia was finally given a reading. However, Superbia’s tale ends bittersweetly as it never got to be played on stage and stayed a poor man’s dream. 

After Superbia, Larson made a very small production off broadway titled “Tick, Tick… Boom!” The show only had three cast members and was a play on Larson’s life. Tick, Tick… Boom! shows a young artist struggling to make it in the big city after wasting eight years of his life away and the sorrow that life continues to throw his way.

The musical was recently turned into a Netflix Original Film directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda starring Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson.

In 1989, Larson collaborated with a man named Billy Aronson to make a musical update of La Boheme. Aronson later dropped from the project, however Larson continued on working. He kept writing until it became an original story all on it’s own, a musical titled “Rent.”

Rent was a story of the people, one that showed the sorrows and pains of everyday life during the AIDs Epidemic, the struggles of substance abuse, the homeless, and the pain of a world that doesn’t help the needy. The musical is set up in a rock and roll style that could only be created from the mind of Larson himself, with songs that make you want to get up and dance and yet still hold a power control on your heart, making you feel every last bit of pain the characters are singing. 

Rent became a show stopping hit that went on for 12 years on Broadway. Finally, Larson had made his dream a reality with this masterpiece. Unfortunately, it was a dream that he never got to see.

The morning of January 25, 1996, Larson died in his home in Manhattan due to an aortic aneurysm after it was misdiagnosed as the flu the day the previews for Rent came out. 

Larson never got to see his name in lights, never got to see his musical on stage, and never got to see what his work had become. Larson’s one goal his whole life was to make something that would get the world to open its eyes and take a look at the world. He wanted something that could truly connect with people, bring originality, something to make life better.

And he did.

Rent has become a well beloved musical that was able to capture the hearts of thousands and was able to connect with the audience in a way no other show had been able to do. Even now, after all these years Rent is still relevant and is relatable to the audience. 

A show to laugh at, to cry, to smile, to dance, and to learn. 

Jonathan Larson didn’t have enough time, and his legacy is one of tragic irony. But no matter how tough it got he never gave up. If there is one thing anyone could learn from this story I hope it is that you don’t have a lot of time in this world, so make the time you have worth it and do the things you want to– even if they seem impossible.