Rent, the 90’s rock musical that transformed Broadway, visits the Fox Theatre from February 20-28. I first got into Rent as a high schooler when my friend and I would sing along to the soundtrack in my bedroom and then go on walks, lamenting how we both wanted to jump over the moon (times were different!). I finally got to see it a year later, and it still stands out as one of the most poignant musicals.
In case you haven’t seen Rent, here’s a quick background: Jonathan Larson composed and wrote Rent, loosely inspired by the Puccini opera, La Boheme. While writing it he worked at Moondance Diner for 10 years and lived in a shitty studio, watching the East Village gentrify. Although there are similarities to La Boheme, there were modern updates, too. The opera was centered on broke artists living in early 1800’s Paris and Rent focuses on broke artists living in the late 80’s/ early 90’s East Village. In La Boheme, the artists had tuberculosis and in Rent many of them have AIDS. The AIDS piece is especially important because Rent came out at the height of the AIDS epidemic so it really put the stigmatized disease at the forefront. The score is heavily influenced by rock music which made for some super catchy songs and naturally appealed to a younger audience ( like me, six years after it came out). Good luck not singing “Out Tonight” the next time you’re getting ready for a night on the town! Rent is definitely a tear-jerker, but there’s plenty of comedic relief and the overarching message of hope in the face of fear still rings true today. If you’re a nerd like me and want to dive into how Rent changed musical theatre, check out this blog post by The Learned Fan Girl.
To celebrate the most New York-y of Broadway musicals arriving in Atlanta, I thought I would tell you how to have an NYC-inspired day! Of course, the characters in Rent were broke and probably would frown upon a couple of my suggestions…but, c’est la vie.
Breakfast: Emerald City Bagels
Head to East Atlanta Village and queue up at Emerald City Bagels. The bagel company run by mother-daughter pair, Deanna and Jackie Halcrow, has been a longtime Atlanta favorite as a farmers market stall and coffee shop-supplier. This month they opened their long-awaited brick and mortar store to much applause. The aesthetic is very old-school NYC with milk glass light fixtures and brass rail partitions, but a neon sign gives it a modern pop. Even the people who work there match the old school vibe with their paper hats and white uniforms.
There are plenty of bagels to choose from (I loved the everything) as well as a variety of cream cheeses and fish spreads. For the ultimate NYC experience order an egg cream, a fizzy combination of seltzer, syrup, and milk, made by an actual soda jerk. They even serve Batdorf & Bronson for my fellow caffeine junkies! Seating is limited, so plan on taking your bagel to go.
Lunch: The General Muir
It seems like no matter how big the bagel the hunger pangs still roll back around in just a couple hours. Anyone? Just me? Yeah, right. Anyway, when the hunger starts talking again, take yourself to the deli with a southern twist: the General Muir. Located in Emory Point, there’s plenty of free parking. In the front of the restaurant there’s a deli counter where you can order bagels, sandwiches, soup, sweets (oh, the sweets!) and deli meats/salads by the pound. The dining room menu has such yumminess as poutine and a burger stack, but that’s New York-y enough. For the true New York experience, order the pastrami sandwich with house-brined pastrami and a cup of matzo ball soup. Grab a black and white cookie at the end (I don’t care how full you think you are).
Dinner: Shake Shack
I know, it’s a chain (and in Buckhead), but Shake Shack is one of the few exceptions to the “no chain” rule. And since it started in NYC it kind of has to be on the list! If you haven’t been to Shake Shack it’s a burger joint. So the ordering process is pretty straightforward: get a single (or double) hamburger, a side of cheese fries, and a “Jelly’s Last Doughnut (Broadway)” frozen concrete to round out the meal. The concrete is a mixture of vanilla custard, Doughnut Plant doughnuts, strawberry preserves, and cinnamon sugar – delicious!
Important info about Rent in Atlanta
RENT will play at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre February 20 – 28. The performance schedule, which includes two additional dates, is as follows:
Tuesday-Thursday 7:30 p.m.
Friday 8 p.m.
Saturday 2 p.m., 8 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday-Wednesday 7:30 p.m.