It's the absolutely complete and exclusive companion volume for Rent." Those are the words of Katherine Beitner, publicity manager for William Morrow Books, heralding the near-arrival of Rent the book, published under the imprint of Rob Weisbach Books.
With a publication date set for June 2, the book will begin shipping May 5 and continue shipping to stores throughout May. A hardbound volume with full-color art and "many, many pictures," the 160-page book sells for $38.
"The story starts from Jonathan Larson creating the show to practically the present," Beitner told Playbill On-Line. "It's the first time the full libretto has been published. Plus, many people from the original cast and creation team are interviewed." Evelyn McDonnell of the Village Voice did the interviews with Katherine Silberger.
The oversized volume on the Broadway musical phenomenon, Rent, will offer backstage and performance photos, the story of the show's move to Broadway, and a biography of creator Jonathan Larson, who died of an aortic aneurysm on Jan. 25, 1996 (the eve of Rent's first Off Broadway performance).
"We are delighted that Jonathan's successful effort to marry contemporary music with live theatre is being memorialized so beautifully," said his father, Al Larson. "Everyone involved with the book has shown a dedication to the spirit of the show." Producer Jeffrey Seller said, "Rent turned the conventions of musical theatre upside down, and the Rent book will do the same thing for the convention of theatre books. Rob Weisbach and Charles Melcher [of Melcher Media, which will package the books] share a progressive vision of bookmaking that is totally consistent with the spirit of Rent."
Publisher Rob Weisbach said of the book, "[It] offers what most theatre books can't -- a rare chance to step behind the curtain to feel the electricity of a stage phenomenon as it unfolds." He also told Playbill On Line that author McDonnell will help make the book "a chorus of voices that drive the narrative. It captures the collaborative process in a way that's involved and intimate. I didn't even like musical theatre anymore, I found it so artificial. But then I saw Rent, which struck me, and it's been a dream to do this book."
Asked if the volume would cover the controversies and lawsuits surrounding Rent, Weisbach said it wasn't that kind of book -- "that's an entire book on its own!" -- but the Rent volume would touch on all aspects of the Rent phenomenon. He also pointed out the book would be on sale in every bookstore in America, "and if it's not, call and ask them for it!"
You can also call William Morrow directly and order it, though the book won't be ready for a couple more weeks. Their number is (800) 843-9389.