To theater audiences around the world, is a beloved, era-defining musical. However, one person who never got to witness the show’s unparalleled success was composer .
Larson unexpectedly on Jan. 25, 1996 ― one day before “Rent” had its off-Broadway premiere. Though the 35-year-old received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, as well as three Tony Awards, for the show, much of his unfinished work remained shrouded in mystery ― until now.
This spring, Ghostlight Records will release “,” featuring rarely performed and never-before-recorded songs written by the composer years before “Rent” became a hit. HuffPost got an exclusive first listen to the album, out April 5 and available for pre-order, with “Valentine’s Day,” performed by actor-singers , and and arranged by composer .
The song, which can be heard in the video above, was originally written for Larson’s 1987 musical, “Prostate of the Union,” which depicted “the evils of [former President] Ronald Reagan’s America.” Later, the track was incorporated into early incarnations of “Rent,” initially sung by the character of Mimi (played by on Broadway) and later by Roger () before being omitted from the show entirely.
According to theater historian and producer , who conceived and directed “The Jonathan Larson Project” as a at New York’s Feinstein’s/54 Below last fall, “Valentine’s Day” was “one of Larson’s favorite songs that he wrote.”
The track, she told HuffPost, occupies “an important place” in Larson’s oeuvre given how much the song reflects the composer’s “ideas on how pain and love are intertwined.”
And though Larson wound up scrapping “Valentine’s Day” from “Rent,” Tepper said Larson’s friends and collaborators are convinced he “was sure he’d find the right spot for the song in another project someday.”
The 20th anniversary of “Rent” on Broadway (in 2016) as well as Fox’s of the musical last month have helped to reignite interest in Larson’s work as of late. Meanwhile, “Hamilton” composer Lin-Manuel Miranda is set a film version of “,” a 2001 musical incorporating music and songs Larson had performed as a solo piece in the 1990s.
Given the composer’s continued theatrical relevance, Tepper said capturing “The Jonathan Larson Project” for posterity on an album was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for herself as well as many of the artists involved ― and that passion is evident on “Valentine’s Day.”
“We strove to channel the creative impulses Jonathan had while crafting each version of the song into our rendition,” she added.