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Rent Music Supervisor Tim Weil Looks Back on Two Decades with the Iconic 1996 Rock Opera

Rent: 20th Anniversary Tour will rock the Durham Performing Arts Center (photo by Carol Rosegg)

Rent: 20th Anniversary Tour will rock the Durham Performing Arts Center (photo by Carol Rosegg)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Part 1 of our preview of Rent: 20th Anniversary Tour, published on Tuesday, Oct. 11th, is a general introduction to the show: Part 2, published below, is a wide-ranging interview with the show’s long-time musical supervisor, Tim Weil, who has worked on this rock opera from the very beginning. — RWM

“I’m now the oldest person in the room,” quips the Rent: 20th Anniversary Tour’s 58-year-old music supervisor, Tim Weil. “I keep getting older, and the cast keeps getting younger.” Weil has been with the late, great composer, lyricist, and playwright Jonathan Larson’s 1996 hit Off-Broadway and Broadway and 1998 West End rock opera from the very beginning.

Rent, which is playing now through Sunday at the Durham Performing Arts Center as part of DPAC‘s SunTrust Broadway Series, was initially workshopped in 1993 at the New York Theatre Workshop, where its Off-Broadway production debuted three years later on Jan. 26, 1996. The show was an immediate success. It closed Off Broadway, after 49 performances, and reopened on Broadway on April 29, 1996 at the Nederlander Theatre, where it racked up 5,123 performances before closing on Sept. 7, 2008. Nominated for ten 1996 Tony Awards®, Rent won four Tonys, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and 1996 Best Original Score, plus the 1996 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical and the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Sadly, Jonathan Larson wasn’t around to bask in the critical acclaim that his creation evoked. He died on Jan. 25, 1996 of an aortic dissection on the eve of the show’s first Off-Broadway performance. He was only 35 years old.

“Over the course of our collaboration, we became very good friends,” recalls Tim Weil, who served as music supervisor, conductor, and keyboard player on the show’s original Broadway production (and is also credited with additional arrangements). He adds, “I am to this day saddened by his death, in ways that I find very difficult to explain…. I think about him every day, even when I’m not doing Rent,” says Weil, who has been a board member of the Jonathan Larson Foundation, which gives grants for up-and-coming composers and lyricists.

<em>Rent</em> music supervisor Tim Weil is married to actress Randy Graff

Rent music supervisor Tim Weil is married to actress Randy Graff

Weil says that Rent’s continuing popularity with the public makes him simultaneously happy and sad. “The duality of that occurs each and every day that I work on this show,” says Weil. “Some of the cast members weren’t even born when I started working on this show. The material is difficult enough to manage and to play, so they don’t need me casting a dark cloud over their work.”

Tim Weil confesses that he had no idea that Rent would become the iconic musical that it has become; but after the second workshop, when the first act was still about two hours long, a director-friend of his told him, “Tim, don’t you ever quit this show.” Weil said, “What do you mean?” He said, “You’re doing A Chorus Line.” (The 1975-90 original Broadway production of A Chorus Line is the sixth longest-running Broadway musical, according to Wikipedia; Rent is the 11th longest-running Broadway musical.)

Tim Weil notes, “Traditional book musicals have an hour or an hour and a half of music. With Rent, it’s two-and-a-half hours.”

As musical supervisor for the 20th anniversary tour of Rent, it’s Weil’s job to get the show “roadworthy,” he says. “Then I come out every six weeks or so to help wherever it’s needed.”

The 20th anniversary tour of Rent stars Danny Harris Kornfeld (left) as Mark Cohen and Kaleb Wells as Roger Davis (photo by Carol Rosegg)

The 20th anniversary tour of Rent stars Danny Harris Kornfeld (left) as Mark Cohen and Kaleb Wells as Roger Davis (photo by Carol Rosegg)

What’s new about the Rent: 20th Anniversary Tour, produced by Worklight Productions, LLC of Summit, NJ? “First and foremost,” says Tim Weil, “It’s the cast members themselves. We’re literally looking at a new generation. Twenty years have passed. From where I sit, that’s big.

“We always make subtle changes to the show — some with music, some with lighting, some with staging — but the average audience member won’t notice them,” Weil claims.

The Minneapolis, MN native, who graduated with a degree in jazz piano performance and composition from the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA, says, “Rent is reaching a new generation…. Parents are bringing their kids to the show. That’s a tribute to Jonathan Larson’s work. This musical literally reaches across generations.”

He adds, “I am as proud of this production as I have been of any of the other productions. I hope people enjoy it …, and I hope that the joy comes across.

“After 20 years,” says Tim Weil, “I’m still as excited to be working on this show as I was in the first year of the show. I hope that that translates to the audience’s experience, too.” After two decades, Weil is still exhilarated by this show, whose catchiest song might well be “No Day But Today.”

David Merino dazzles as drag queen Angel Dumott Schunard in the Rent: 20th Anniversary Tour (photo by Carol Rosegg)

David Merino dazzles as drag queen Angel Dumott Schunard in the Rent: 20th Anniversary Tour (photo by Carol Rosegg)

SECOND OPINION: Oct. 13th Raleigh, NC Raleigh review by Taryn Oesch: and Sept. 21st preview by Taryn Oesch:; Oct. 12th Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: and Oct. 9th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: (Note: You must subscribe to read these articles); Oct. 12th Burlington, NC Times-News review by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”: and Oct. 5th preview by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”:; Oct. 9th Raleigh, NC Triangle Explorer interview with David Merino, conducted by John Huisman:; Oct. 8th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks:; and Sept. 12th New York, NY preview by Adam Hetrick: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 11th Triangle Review preview (Part 1: General Overview) by Robert W. McDowell and Oct. 12th review by Dawn Reno Langley, click and, respectively.)

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents RENT: 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 and 13, 8 p.m. Oct. 14, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 15, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $30-$135. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.


DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787),, or

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587,, or

SHOW: and


THE TOUR:,, and








Rent (Off-Broadway and Broadway and 1998 West End rock opera): (Music Theatre International), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Jonathan Larson (White Plains, NY-born composer, lyricist, and playwright, 1960-96): (unofficial site by Chris Matthias), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Google Books).

Study Guide: (Denver Center for the Performing Arts).

Rent (2005 film): (official website), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Tim Weil (music supervisor): (tour bio), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Facebook page).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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